SOMERSWORTH, N.H. — With his frontrunner status in the Democratic race teetering, former Vice President Joe Biden admitted he had fallen short in Monday’s Iowa caucuses, but then came out swinging against his rivals as he moved on to New Hampshire, which holds its primary election on Tuesday.
“I am not going to sugarcoat it: We took a gut punch in Iowa,” said Biden to a crowd of a few hundred people at the 1899 Ballroom in this town in eastern New Hampshire. “The whole process took a gut punch, but look, this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.”
The 25-minute speech, which began on a subdued note but ended with a defiant insistence that he could unify a badly divided nation, was a contrast to his comments the previous day in Nashua, where he said, “We had a good night last night in Iowa. I know you think that’s silly. But everything we can feel, it’s good. Here’s the deal — we think we’re going to come out of there really doing well.”
While results from Iowa are still being released, Biden is on track to finish fourth in both delegates and the popular vote. He has also seen his national lead, which he’s held since joining the race last April, dissipate. He did have some good news to tout, having received the endorsement of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union on Wednesday morning.
“I know there are an awful lot of folks out there who want to write off this campaign, but I’ll tell you what, they’ve been trying to do that since I entered the race. But I’ve got news for them: I’m not going anywhere,” he said to applause.
Biden took his usual shots at President Trump, highlighting the State of the Union address from Tuesday night, but he mentioned Sen. Bernie Sanders by name repeatedly in an attempt to contrast himself to the current poll leader in New Hampshire. Biden criticized Sanders’s health care plan as impossible and said that the socialist label the Vermont senator has assigned himself would doom the party down ballot. Biden didn’t refer to Sanders by name when he discussed his own record of fighting the National Rifle Association, but he mentioned that one of his “leading competitors” had voted against the Brady handgun-control bill.
He also turned his attention to Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who is projected to finish in the top two in Iowa. Biden said it was a risk to nominate someone whose highest office was mayor of a city of 100,000. He challenged Buttigieg, who has continually criticized what he describes as the failed status quo in Washington, to say that the “Obama-Biden administration” was a failure.
The former vice president faced shouts from activists dissatisfied with his proposals for combating climate change. He took the interruptions calmly, asking one woman to “please be polite” when she interrupted him a second time, and urged his supporters in the crowd not to treat hecklers like “Trumpsters” do. He showed more resentment at the charge raised by some of his rivals that he is “naive” to think he can work with congressional Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stalled almost all Democratic initiatives over the past four years, and members of his caucus have repeatedly demanded that Biden and his son Hunter testify in Trump’s impeachment trial. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said last week that Republicans would immediately begin impeachment proceedings against Biden if he is elected.
Biden raised his voice to a shout as he insisted to the crowd that he can overcome the partisan divide in Washington.
The event was the third since the Iowa caucuses, and Biden has declined to take any questions from attendees, a break from the Granite State’s town hall tradition. He also skipped a youth climate forum in Concord that was attended by Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. (Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren were originally scheduled to attend and take questions but had to reschedule and send surrogates so they could be in Washington for the Senate vote on Trump’s impeachment. Klobuchar rescheduled to speak at the start of the event, and Sen. Michael Bennet was set to speak via remote from Washington.) The Somersworth event was also the only scheduled event for Biden on Wednesday, and there were no events on the calendar for Thursday. He will face questions on Friday night in Manchester at the final Democratic debate before next Tuesday’s primary election.
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