COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Joe Biden launched an eight-day bus tour of Iowa on Saturday projecting confidence, ignoring his many Democratic presidential competitors and pledging that he will unseat President Donald Trump in 2020.
The former vice president pledged first to win the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, despite recent polls suggesting his standing there has slipped in recent months.
“I promise you, I promise you,” Biden told a few hundred supporters outside his Council Bluff campaign office, “we’re going to win this race, and we’re going to beat Donald Trump, and we’re going to change America.”
Behind the optimism, Biden aides acknowledge he must sharpen his message and bolster his voter outreach operation ahead of the caucuses that start Democrats’ 2020 voting. But his advisers also insist he has wide support and remains well-positioned to recover any lost ground.
His chief argument — his perceived strength against Trump — was on clear display Saturday. Sidestepping his philosophical tussle with progressive Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders over the party’s direction, Biden struck a general-election posture. He added an emphasis on small town and rural America, an electoral swath where Democrats have struggled in recent elections but that could prove critical in both the nominating fight and November battlegrounds.
“We’re going to touch on what we think is a forgotten part of this campaign,” Biden said, bemoaning the effects of Trump’s tariffs on Iowa farmers and highlighting his own rural policy plans shaped with the help of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.
The former Obama agriculture secretary recently gave Biden his most high-profile Iowa endorsement.
Iowa polls suggest that Biden, while a front-runner nationally, is in a jumble near the top. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, of South Bend, Indiana, appears to hold a narrow edge over Biden, 77; Warren, 70; and Sanders, 78. The senators have animated the party’s left flank, while Buttigieg joins Biden in Democrats’ center-left wing but is calling for generational change.