DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday gave Iowa State Fair visitors a sample of the major themes he is hitting on the presidential campaign trail, including some Trump-bashing and promises of universal health care and restoring middle-class values in an appearance before a standing-room-only crowd.
This year’s Iowa State Fair, which will attract upwards of 1 million visitors over 11 days, will also attract at least 20 Democratic presidential candidates eager to plunge into the sweaty crowds and be seen by national media gnawing on corn dogs and pork chops with ordinary Iowans.
All Democratic – and Republican – presidential candidates have been invited to address the fairgrounds crowds on the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox, a stage on the State Fair Grand Concourse where candidates are given a microphone and 20 minutes to make their pitch to folks strolling down the main thoroughfare.
On the opening day of the fair, Biden and Montana Governor Steve Bullock kicked off the Soapbox speeches.
Biden, seen as the Democratic frontrunner based on polling numbers, touched on a list of issues that frame his campaign.
He said “every single person will have health care” by building on Obamacare and creating a public option, as well as investing in medical research to search for cures, like what he calls a “moon shot” in search of a cure for cancer.
Biden’s plan does not include Medicare for all, which he said would cost $30 trillion, and taxes would have to be raised to pay for it.
“At least Bernie is honest enough to tell you that,” he said.
How to pay for his health care plan? “Get rid of that God-awful tax cut” that was passed under President Donald Trump in late 2017.
On the topic of restoring the middle class, the former vice president said there “used to be a basic bargain in America from the Roosevelt administration.”
“If you contributed to the wealth of the company you worked for, you shared in the benefits. Now, they have changed that, and only the shareholders get the rewards from the corporations,” he said.
Biden also disputed the notion that corporations are job creators.
“The people who take grain to the elevator, they are the job creators. The people who build automobiles, they are the job creators,” he said. “We should be rewarding work, not just wealth.”
Biden said one of the reasons why he is running for president is to “restore the soul of this country,” which has been damaged by the “hate and the venom coming from the president.”
After three years of Trump in the White House, Biden said Americans “found out that a lot about what he’s talking about is hokum.”
Bullock, Montana’s governor, had the task of warming up the crowd ahead of Biden, and for many people it was their first introduction to the long-shot Democratic presidential candidate.
“It’s time to remember in God’s name who we are: We are the United States of America. We have never failed when we are together,” Bullock said.
The governor called himself a “pro-choice, pro-union populist Democrat who has won three elections” in a red state.
He said he was raised in a one-parent household, and described moving just blocks from the neighborhood where he grew up to the Montana governor’s mansion.
“Everybody deserves a shot at that American dream,” Bullock said.
Thursday marked his eighth trip to Iowa. Bullock said he has “listened and learned” from people like farmers in rural Rippey. The governor also blasted Trump’s trade war with China, saying, “Every time he tweets, we lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
“I come from a place a lot like Iowa, where there are a whole lot of Trump supporters,” he said, adding that he has a Republican majority in the Montana Legislature but he has worked with lawmakers to expand access to health care, get “dark money” out of elections and invest in education.
“I get stuff done, certainly, by building relationships,” but he said he has pushed back things he opposes, including vetoing attempts to limit a woman’s right to choose an abortion access to the ballot box, as well as attacks on collective bargaining.
Like every other candidate running for the Democratic nomination, Bullock wants to unseat President Trump.
“This is the most important election, certainly in my lifetime. It is about defeating Donald Trump.”
His walk-off line: “We can build a better union without tearing this country apart.”