(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden on Wednesday gave a preview of a potential general election face-off with Donald Trump by taking a more aggressive tone and assailing the president for his “abuse of power” and for “smearing” him and his family.
“Let me make something clear to Trump and his hatchet men and the special interests funding his attacks against me -- I’m not going anywhere,” Biden said to applause in a speech in Reno, Nevada. “You’re not going to destroy me. And you’re not going to destroy my family.”
Biden said that “like every bully in history,” Trump is “afraid. He’s afraid of just how badly I would beat him next November.”
The remarks come as the president, angry over being the subject of a House impeachment inquiry, has sought to tarnish Biden as “corrupt” because of his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine. Trump has made discredited claims that the former vice president used his office to intervene with the eastern European country’s law enforcement to protect Hunter Biden.
Biden called Trump “desperate and defensive” for “warning direly of civil war” after a whistle-blower filed a complaint over his conversation asking Ukraine’s president to “look into” the Bidens.
The event was Biden’s attempt to paint a picture of a one-on-one match with Trump, showing his fiery side and driving home the message that the president fears him the most of the Democratic candidates.
“I don’t think he wants to run against me,” Biden said, accusing Trump of trying to “pick his opponent -- but we’re not going to let Donald Trump choose the Democratic candidate.”
Biden took shot after shot at Trump, drawing cheers and applause from the audience. He said Trump’s allegations about him were “a flat-out lie” and that his policy in Ukraine was transparent and backed by international partners in an anti-corruption push.
“The truth doesn’t matter to Donald Trump. It never has and it never will.”
Gordon Grigg, a retired school teacher in Reno who attended the event, said he’s undecided in the Democratic race and intrigued by Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. But he said Trump’s claims about Biden would have no impact on his decision.
“He’s been cleared,” Grigg said. “There’s nothing there.”
Cheers in Reno
Biden, who faces growing competition from Warren as she jumps to a statistical tie with him in polls, made a case that he’s the most experienced.
“It takes proven ability to get things done. There’s really good people in this race. But no one in this race has a stronger record of passing big consequential legislation than me,” he said, citing gun control, the Violence Against Women Act and Obamacare.
Biden closed with a pithy line aimed at rivals like Warren, who say it’s not enough for Democrats to simply defeat Trump.
“A lot of my opponents say we have to do more than just beat Donald Trump,” he said. “I agree. We have to do more than beat Donald Trump. We have to beat him like a drum.”
The audience erupted in cheers.
(Updates with Biden speech, starting in sixth paragraph.)
--With assistance from Tyler Pager.
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