Joe Biden rallies Iowa Democrats 100 days out from general election

At the Iowa Democratic Party’s virtual Hall of Fame Celebration, Joe Biden called Iowa a critical state for his campaign and said he would return leadership to the White House.


Hannah Kinson

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Iowa Democratic 2020 Hall of Fame Celebration on Sunday, July 26, 2020. (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan)

Caleb McCullough, Summer Editor

Former Vice President Joe Biden was one of a few Democratic presidential hopefuls not to speak at last year’s packed Hall of Fame Celebration, which drew 19 of the party’s nearly two dozen candidates. This year, he headlined the event as the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s summer fundraiser regularly brings in a slate of presidential hopefuls in the year ahead of the caucuses. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was changed to a virtual event this year, which took place Sunday.

Kurt Meyer, the chair of the Tri-County Democrats in northeast Iowa, has attended the party fundraiser for nearly all of the last 15 years. One hundred days out from the general election, the event felt a little bit different this year.

Meyer said the lack of interpersonal connection and catching up with old friends was disappointing, but the pacing and the production of the event made it an exciting night.

“One of the great kicks that I get in going to an event like this is being able to see friends of longstanding and get caught up,” he said. “And the absence of being able to see them and actually engage with them is a loss.”

The 70-minute event consisted of a series of pre-recorded videos with speakers including Biden, 2018 Secretary of State candidate Diedre DeJear, former Senator Tom Harken, former Governor Tom Vilsack, and party chairman Mark Smith.

Biden’s remarks, which lasted less than four minutes, focused on some of the most salient issues in the U.S. — the coronavirus pandemic, mass unemployment, and protests against systemic racism — and he said his election would mean a return to leadership and decency in the White House, contrasting himself against President Trump.

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“Today, we’re dealing with multiple national crises, and all at once,” he said. “We need real leadership now. Now. We need leadership that recognizes the real threat of this pandemic, and doesn’t just wave a white flag of surrender, like the president has.”

Biden spoke of the importance to Democrats of flipping the Senate in the election, and said Iowa is a key state for both his campaign and for control of the Senate.

“Iowa is a critical battleground state for our campaign,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Democrats win up and down the ballot all across Iowa this November.”

Trump leads Biden by 1 point in Iowa, 44 percent to 43 percent, according to the June Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Trump won the state by 9 points in 2016.

Theresa Greenfield, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, leads incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst by 3 points — 46 percent to 43 percent — according to the same poll.

Meyer said Biden did a good job of getting the state party fired up about working for the November election, and he enjoyed the speech Biden gave. He said he would have preferred to hear more from the soon-to-be Democratic nominee, however.

“I would have welcomed a little bit more substance,” he said. “It was more sort of, Joe Biden bringing reason than giving a full-blown address. And that’s okay … I thought it was great, and this is not a complaint, but I could have listened to him for another five or 10 minutes.”

The rest of the event was mostly devoted to dedicating awards to various Democratic workers and volunteers.

Iowa’s Legislative Black Caucus was awarded the inaugural We the People award, which was established to honor “elected leaders for their dedication and drive to change the system,” according to an Iowa Democratic Party news release.

The Legislative Black Caucus, chaired by Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, was instrumental in the unanimous passage of a bipartisan police reform bill in June, following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“The work of the legislative Black caucus stands up for our civil rights,” DeJear said when presenting the award. “They elevate the values of our communities on the floor each and every day. Quite simply, they represent the best of us.”

Penny Rosfjord, the chair of the 4th District Democrats, said while this year’s Hall of Fame Celebration didn’t have the experience of connecting with people, there were still opportunities to engage with the event.

She said the event likely reached more people than it would if it were in person, and she was texting with friends throughout the night and watching people react on Twitter, which made it feel more personal.

“It’s sort of the apples and oranges, I don’t know what would be better,” she said about how it compares to the in-person event. “But I thought what they did for what we could do with COVID — I think this is perfect.”

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