While Joe Biden faces off with Donald Trump in a high-stakes media battle over impeachment and unfounded attacks on the Biden family, his campaign continues the on-the-ground work in Iowa necessary for a caucus victory.
On Saturday afternoon, Dr. Jill Biden took her husband’s message to a campaign office opening in Burlington.
“I think we have to choose the best person, the person who can beat Trump, the person who has the most experience,” said Dr. Biden, in an interview with Starting Line. “And I feel that Joe can walk into the White House day one.”
The Burlington office opening was the former second lady’s seventh and final event of her two-day trip to Iowa. She was dispatched to the first-in-the-nation caucus state to pump up voters, whether they were committed to Biden or still deciding among candidates in a vast field.
A community college professor, Dr. Biden joked with the crowd she was grading papers in the car as she traveled between events.
“He’s worked in Congress; he knows how to deal with Congress,” she said. “He’s worked with allies around the world; he can work with foreign leaders. He’s been in office as a senator or as vice president most of his adult life. He knows our country, he knows its people.”
About two dozen people turned out to see Dr. Biden, phones in the air snapping pictures as she spoke.
Rather than open with criticisms of President Trump or accolades about her husband — a frontrunner in the 2020 campaign — Dr. Biden talked to the crowd about her faith, and how it was tested in the wake of her son’s death.
“I’m not very public about my faith,” Dr. Biden said, as she described a church service she attended over the summer with her husband. “But it’s always been something that’s been very important to me. And prayers, especially, are part of how I relate to my friends and people around me. But after our son Beau died, I felt betrayed by my faith, abandoned.”
In what may prove to be a sign of good luck for the Biden family, Beau’s birthday falls on caucus night, Feb. 3, 2020.
A woman the Bidens met at the church service said she wanted to be her “prayer partner,” a phrase Dr. Biden said she had never heard before.
“I don’t know whether she could see the grief that still hides behind my smile,” Dr. Biden said. “But I do know that her kindness opened up something inside of me. It’s as if God was saying to me, ‘Jill, it’s been some time, it’s time to come home.’
“Because of her kindness, I felt for the very first time that there was a path to recovering my faith. So, of all the things that I expected to find on this campaign trail, this experience was really not one of them,” she said.
Dr. Biden, Joe Biden’s wife of 42 years, has been described as one of the vice president’s closest advisors. Though she said she was uninterested in writing policy if they were to win the White House, Dr. Biden is a well-known champion of education, a cause she would continue as first lady.
“One thing I’ve tried to say to Joe throughout the years — I’ve seen what teachers want, because I talk to teachers every single day,” she said. “I’ve made it a mission to talk to all the teachers here in Iowa and across the country when I was second lady. And I’ve seen what we need in an education policy. I’ve seen it first-hand in my classroom.”
Dr. Biden stressed the importance of mental health resources, not just in elementary and high school classrooms, but for adult learners, too.
“They have so many things that they’re dealing with, whether it’s poverty, or food insecurity or domestic violence,” she said. They’re bringing all of these things into the classroom, and the teachers are expected to not only teach their subject matter, but to help the students on a personal level as well.”
After about 15 minutes speaking to the group, a woman in the front row of the audience eagerly asked Dr. Biden how her husband would handle Trump if he was the Democratic nominee, particularly in light of unproven allegations related to Biden and his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.
“Do you realize it’s all not true? It’s not true,” she said emphatically. “Trump can make up all these facts and figures or whatever he wants to do, but it’s not true.”
An unwavering advocate for her husband, Dr. Biden was insistent on his readiness for the nation’s top job.
“Right now, in the election of 2020, Joe Biden is the best candidate running.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
Main photo by Julie Fleming