ELKADER, Iowa — As rivals rise in Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden told voters here Friday that experience matters, arguing that his decades in government — and standing with world leaders — make him the Democrat best suited to restore America’s place in the world as president.
He was joined Friday by former Secretary of State John Kerry, another Democratic elder statesman, whose presence reinforced Biden’s ties to the past, and who argued that Biden’s years in public life are an asset and even a necessity.
“We need a president that’s shown that he can immediately begin to heal a broken world and put years of building relationships to work,” Kerry told about 200 people in this rural northeastern Iowa town.
Kerry was campaigning with Biden for the first time, one day after he endorsed him. Kerry, the Democratic nominee in 2004, had trailed in Iowa before rallying to win the state.
But there were reminders of Biden’s age, a concern for some voters here. Kerry noted that the two men served together in the Senate for 24 years, and have known each other even longer.
Biden rolled out the endorsement from the former secretary of state as his campaign turned its focus toward foreign policy and the need to rebuild respect for America abroad. This week he also launched an ad showcasing foreign leaders mocking Trump at a recent NATO summit.
On Thursday, the Kerry announcement was overshadowed when the former vice president snapped at a voter who confronted him about his age and his son’s former job with a Ukrainian energy company. “You’re a damn liar, man,” Biden said as he challenged the voter to a push-ups contest.
Even before he was vice president, Biden was a veteran leader of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, two credentials he has used to contrast himself with Trump — and which may also help Biden distinguish himself from his top Democratic rivals. In Iowa, Pete Buttigieg has rocketed to the top of recent polls with a promise of generational change.
But significant questions remain about whether the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., has the experience and heft to become the leader of the free world.
“The next president, as John implied, there’s no time for on-the-job training, not a joke,” said Biden, 77. “And I’m not just talking about foreign policy, I’m talking health care.”
Kerry bookended Biden’s “No Malarkey” bus tour that began last week with support from former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture under President Barack Obama, continuing the Obama-era references that have infused Biden’s campaign.
The event Friday came on the second-to-last day of an eight-day swing through Iowa, the state that in two months holds the Democratic campaign’s first nominating contest.
While Buttigieg has soared, Biden has fallen from first place in the state to a pack of three candidates fighting for second, according to an average of polls compiled by the Real Clear Politics website. Several Democratic county chairs in northeastern Iowa said they had seen little of Biden or his campaign before Friday, compared with the expansive field operations of Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).