Two Joe Bidens spoke Monday in the rotunda of the Franklin Institute — the former vice president who wants to unite a divided country and the man ready to punch President Donald Trump.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to take a punch and not punch back,” Biden said, looking past the Democratic primaries to what would be a general election matchup with a pugnacious president.
That was after the front-runner for the Democratic nomination gave his standard call to “restore the soul” of the country and end Trump’s politics of grievance.
Biden did not hit Trump for allegedly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 telephone call to launch an investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukranian gas company. The president has insinuated, without offering evidence, that the former vice president had improperly assisted his son in his business dealings.
A whistleblower in the U.S. intelligence community filed a formal complaint about Trump’s phone call; that complaint has been withheld from members of Congress, who are demanding access and have launched their own investigation.
Trump has acknowledged that he mentioned the Bidens during the call. And his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has said he asked Ukraine’s government to investigate the Bidens.
Biden spoke for about 30 minutes to a crowd of about 100 donors, as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker was attending a private campaign fund-raiser across town. Both men faced trouble out on the campaign trail.
Biden spoke just two days after a new poll in Iowa showed him narrowly trailing U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the state that will cast the first votes in the nominating contest in February.
Booker, who represents New Jersey, came to town for a fund-raiser at a private home two days after warning his supporters he needs to raise an additional $1.7 million by next Monday or he will have to quit the race.
Biden, at his fund-raiser, recounted his time in the U.S. Senate representing Delaware, starting in 1972, just after riots left parts of Wilmington in charred ruin. And he sped forward in time to 2009, waiting to be sworn in as vice president to the country’s first black president.
The mention of former President Barack Obama drew a cheer from the crowd.
He contrasted what he called the progress Obama’s election represented to Trump’s actions in office, saying the president has used “the other” to provoke division.
“The only way he can stay in power is to pit us against each other,” Biden said.
Biden directly linked Trump’s rhetoric to a mass shooting last month in El Paso, Texas, where the gunman was motivated by hatred for Hispanic immigrants.
And he recounted Trump’s notorious claim after racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when the president said there were “very fine people” on both sides of that clash.
“Words matter,” Biden said. “What a president says matters. Our children are listening.”
Biden’s fund-raising hosts included Comcast senior vice president David L. Cohen and lawyers Ken Jarin, Tom Leonard, Steve Cozen, Alan Kessler, and Leslie Miller.
Warren went after Biden after Cohen hosted a fund-raiser on the first official day of his presidential campaign in late April. In an email to supporters, Warren knocked the “swank private fund-raiser for wealthy donors at the home of the guy who runs Comcast’s lobbying shop.” She also vowed: “Our Democracy is not for sale, and neither is my time.”
That prompted some pushback from Team Biden, most recently former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who suggested in a Washington Post op-ed that Warren was “a hypocrite” since he had hosted fund-raisers for her senate campaign in 2018. Rendell is expected to be among the Biden supporters at Monday’s fund-raiser.
A Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll released Saturday showed Warren leading Biden by 2 percentage points in that state, 22% to 20%, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4%. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had fallen to third place at 11% while Booker trailed at 3%.
Booker took the unusual step Saturday of publicly releasing a “now or never” memo describing the dire financial circumstances of his campaign, calling for $1.7 million in donations by the end of the month in order to press on.
His campaign on Monday announced that it had raised $508,629 as of 9 a.m.
“Saturday and Sunday marked the biggest online fund-raising weekend of the campaign to-date,” Booker’s campaign announced in a news release.