A Day On The (Very Patriotic) Trail With Joe Biden In Iowa

An unexpected endorsement from a black pastor in Waterloo.

A man yelling “Sleepy Joe, Sleepy Joe!” from the sidewalk of the Independence Day parade in Independence, Iowa.

The Mayor of Marshalltown breaks down on stage because he, too, has lost someone he loves to cancer.

And, is that Beto? Beto O’Rourke? At the I-Cubs Game?

Buckle your seat belts. It was a wild trip around Iowa with Joe Biden this week.

A High-Profile Endorsement

Reverend Frantz Whtfield, a black pastor from the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Waterloo took the stage to address the hundreds of Joe Biden supporters packed into the local United Autoworkers Hall at about 6:00 p.m. on July 3.

Whitfield is supposed to introduce Biden — which he successfully did. He threw in something else, though, that even surprised some Biden aides in the room. He endorsed the former Vice President.

“I have a dream tonight, like Dr. King,” Whitfield said on stage. “I have a dream that people will not have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.

“I have a dream,” the pastor continued. “I have a dream that one day husbands and wives won’t have to choose who takes their prescription drugs, all because they cannot afford them at the same time. I have a dream today.”

Biden had his own dreams, which he gladly shared while in Waterloo.

“I have a dream that Waterloo is going to be Trump’s Waterloo,” Biden said. “It’s so good to be back.”

In his 30-minute stump speech, Biden took several shots at President Donald Trump, and he hit on the highlights of his own career. He helped get the American Care Act passed. He was in the White House the day American troops found terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. He helped get Americans working again.

Biden took off from the union hall around 8:00 p.m.

A Rowdy Parade Route

Twelve hours and a 20-minute car ride to Independence, Iowa later, one of Biden’s staffers who was trying to wrangle the 50-some reporters following Biden that day wondered out loud whether every 4th of July parade in Iowa starts this early.

Biden himself showed up to the parade just before it was supposed to begin at 9:00 a.m. He exited his car to Beto O’Rourke supporters dressed in black BETO t-shirts chanting “I-O-W-A, Beto’s going all the way,” and “You Beto – Believe it.” Biden had plenty of supporters of his own, but they were light on the chants this day.

The chatty former Vice President ran to a nearby trailer that was full of kids who were part of a tumbling academy just before the parade started to move. He joked with the children and told them they probably shouldn’t jump off the float during the parade.

Photo by Julie Fleming

Then he quickly jogged back to the crowd of people wearing “Biden 2020” t-shirts and readied to greet people who lined the streets along the mile-long parade route.

Not willing to pass up an opportunity to shake hands with anyone, Biden started crisscrossing the streets, greeting as many people as he could. But he quickly fell about two blocks behind the rest of the parade. The 76-year-old started jogging in his khaki pants and tennis shoes, waving at parade-goers as he ran by.

At one point, a man started yelling “Sleepy Joe, Sleepy Joe,” so Biden ran in his direction. He suggested the man come run with him, but the offer was turned down.

Biden in Independence. Photo by Julie Fleming

After the parade, Biden met reporters for a nine-minute press gaggle.

Questions About Kamala

Reporters asked him about busing, Kamala Harris, segregation and other candidates’ plans to eliminate private healthcare.

A few minutes in to answering questions, Biden’s attention was drawn to a nearby street where some girls were goofing off while riding on a float trailer.

“One of them is going to get hurt,” Biden said. At that point, one of the girls recognized what was happening and excitedly yelled, “It’s Joe Biden!” Biden smiled and waved at the girls, then answered all the questions he was asked, calling Harris a “good person.”

“She is smart as can be, and so strong,” Biden said.

Advertise on Iowa Starting Line

On whether he should “atone” for calling busing “asinine” in the past, Biden replied, “I don’t have to atone. My record stands for itself. I’ve never been accused by anybody in my state or when I’m running as not being an overwhelming supporter of civil rights.”

And when asked whether the Democratic Party could hurt its own chances at the White House if it decides to support the plan to eliminate private healthcare options, Biden said, “That’s a decision for others. That’s not my position.”

An Emotional Moment In Marshalltown

Back in the car. Biden’s headed south toward Marshalltown, an 82-mile drive.

Once there, Dr. Jill Biden got on stage. She toured the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown earlier that day, which she called “such a special place,” and said the facility is “setting an example we should model around the country.”

Dr. Biden explained that she had many people come up and tell her that her husband needed to run in 2020.

“After Charlottesville, there was a new urgency to the words I kept hearing,” Dr. Biden said. “We need him. Joe has to run … We’re told our differences are irreconcilable, and that there’s a war between them and us. We’ve certainly seen how hatred and bigotry have taken to the streets, torches in hand. Children are being taken away from their families at the border. Our progress is slipping away. Women’s rights. Civil rights. Our environment. So much is at stake.”

Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer was next on stage. He did some research, and it turned out he has a lot of similarities with candidate Biden.

“We both grew up in an Irish Catholic family. We both had asthma as kids. We both played football, wide receiver and halfback. We both graduated with poli sci degree, and both went to law school. His first political job was on the city council. Same with me,” Greer said. “His family and ours have been affected by cancer.”

Greer’s voice broke and he started to cry. Dr. Biden returned to stage to give him a hug.

“I’m going to do everything I possibly can as President of the United States to see to it that we end cancer as I know it,” Biden said on stage shortly after.

Throughout his trip in Iowa, Biden wore a bracelet of brown and orange rosary beads with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. Biden’s son, Beau, was wearing the beads when he died of brain cancer more than four years ago.

A Night At The Ballpark

It was a more chipper mood at the I-Cubs game in Des Moines three hours later, where Biden arrived wearing his aviators and baseball cap.

He and Jill found Beto O’Rourke and his wife Amy and their three children in the stands. Biden shook O’Rourke’s hands and the two presidential candidates watched a naturalization ceremony take place on the field before the game. Then a video recording of President Donald Trump came up on the stadium’s big screen.

“When you give your love and loyalty to America, she returns her love and loyalty to you,” Trump said.

Afterward, Biden congratulated the new Americans one by one as they walked up the stairs from the field.

Biden and his team hung out in the stands for the first half of the game, and Iowa Democratic activists and supporters rotated into the seats next to the Bidens to take in the game. He took a few innings off to do interviews with reporters and join the radio announcers in their booth up in the media center.

The I-Cubs went on to win the game with a ninth-inning walk-off, and Biden stuck around in the stands late into the night to watch the fireworks display and take some final photos with fans.


by Paige Godden
Posted 7/5/19

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