On the Trail: Biden coming to New Hampshire in May and his friends are waiting

  • Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden waves goodbye after stopping at Gianni's Pizza, in Wilmington Del., Thursday, April 25, 2019. Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) Jessica Griffin

  • Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden greets people at Gianni's Pizza, in Wilmington Del., Thursday, April 25, 2019. Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) Jessica Griffin

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Firefighters at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, amid growing expectations he'll soon announce he's running for president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the International Association of Fire Fighters in Washington, D.C., on March 12, 2019.  Melina Mara/Washington Post

For the Monitor
Published: 4/25/2019 4:58:17 PM

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign announcement was both long expected and much anticipated.

The former vice president’s upcoming May 13-14 trip to New Hampshire is no surprise either. A trip to the first-in-the nation presidential primary state during an initial national campaign swing is a must for any White House hopeful.

Unlike some upstart candidates, Biden has friends here, friends who hold sway with the Democratic Party.

“I’ve known Sen. Biden for over 30 years. I was on his 1988 campaign for president. I’ve seen him many, many times campaigning in New Hampshire,” said Terry Shumaker, a former U.S. ambassador and friend of the Clintons.

Shumaker, like former New Hampshire governor John Lynch, wasted no time endorsing Biden Thursday.

“I think we’re at a crucial crossroads in our country and there are two major reasons why I think Joe Biden would be the best Democratic candidate – because he can stand up to Donald Trump,” said Shumaker, of Concord. “If he wins, he’ll restore integrity and decency to the White House. On inauguration day I think the whole world will breath a huge sigh of relief and he will bring back respect for America and our friendships around the world.”

Steve Shurtleff, the speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, backed Biden’s unsuccessful 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination and remains a Biden fan.

“The issue to me right now is bringing our country back together and I look at Joe Biden as the person who has the ability to help unite our country, with his experience as a U.S. senator and vice president and his ability to work across party lines for the good of the nation,” said a Concord Democrat. “And I think that’s a very important attribute.”

Shurtleff said he’ll stay neutral for now – with no endorsement of any of the candidates in the current Democratic field of 20 coming until at least the end of the summer or early in the autumn.

“Like all New Hampshire residents, I want to hear more from some of the other candidates while I make up mind. We have a lot of good Democrats who have announced and I want to do my due diligence and hear from all of them before I make my final decision.

In his video released Thursday on social media announcing his 2020 bid, Biden took aim at Republican President Donald Trump .

“I believe history will look back on at this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are,” Biden warned.

He vowed “I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”

The former U.S. Senator from Deleware pointed to the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017 at a large white nationalist rally, and cited Trump’s response that “there were some very fine people on both sides.”

“With those words, the president of the United assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it,” Biden charged. “And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime. I wrote at the time that we’re in the battle for the soul of this nation. Well, that’s even more true today. We are in the battle for the soul of this nation.”

Those words resonated with longtime Biden friend and supporter John Broderick, the former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

“I watched his video. I think he’s framed the issue – who are we as a nation and what do we believe in. And I think he’s right. I think we are in a fight for the soul of the United States,” Broderick said.

“I’m on that team,” he added. “He is the real deal.”

Biden’s long been a friend to organized labor, and the International Association of Fire Fighters is expected to formally endorse the former vice president in the next day or two.

That endorsement could come in handy in New Hampshire, where the state chapter – the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire – is a politically potent union.

A group of PFFNH members attended the annual meeting in the nation’s capital earlier this year, where Biden dropped a major 2020 hint as he keynoted the gathering.

PFFNH President Bill McQuillen told the Monitor that “the middle class has many advocates in this primary, none of them more versed that Joe Biden.”

McQuillen called the former vice president “a dear friend to our union, and New Hampshire’s union firefighters look forward to hosting him as he touts his vision for America.”

Biden enters the race as the front-runner in most polls, thanks to his strong name recognition built up after eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president.

“Biden enters the race nationally and in New Hampshire as the 800-pound gorilla. He is atop the polls, with nearly universal name recognition and occupies the moderate democratic lane that Granite Staters will find familiar and recognizable,” said veteran political scientist Wayne Lesperance, New England College’s vice president of academic affairs.

But a rival for the nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, topped the most recent poll in the 2020 race in New Hampshire. The independent senator from Vermont who’s making his second straight Democratic nomination bid is very well known in the Granite State, after he trounced eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in the state’s 2016 primary.

Lesperance suggested that the current poll positions for Biden and Sander may not last.

“While Bernie and Biden have some advantages, there is a lot of time for other candidates to break through. In other words, we will see if the two front runners have peaked too early based on the campaigning that takes place here in New Hampshire in the weeks and months ahead,” he said.

‘What’s the plan’

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio – a rival for the Democratic nomination – was in New Hampshire on the day that Biden announced his bid.

Biden could spell trouble for Ryan’s longshot bid for the White House – as both hail from predominantly working-class states that Trump won in 2016.

“He’s from Scranton (Pennsylvania). I’m from just outside of Youngstown (Ohio). Very similar communities. Similar approaches to how we talk about these issues and recognize the anxiety that people are going through. I think the ultimate question is what’s the plan. How do you win the future,” Ryan said Thursday in an interview with the Monitor and NHTalkRadio.com

Ryan took a veiled swipe at Biden and other frontrunners.

“I don’t think people are looking for a superstar. I don’t think they’re looking for a savior. I don’t think they’re looking for a miracle,” he said. “I think they’re looking for someone who can roll their sleeves up and grind this thing out.”Up next in N.H.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is the next Democratic presidential contender to campaign in New Hampshire.

Gillibrand will hold a meet and greet Friday evening in Nashua and a town hall Saturday morning in Keene.

At the event at Keene State College, Gillibrand will be introduced by former state Sen. Molly Kelly, who will also moderate the town hall.

The 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee is not endorsing any candidate at this time but is meeting with the contenders as they stump in New Hampshire.

Gillibrand, by the way, came to New Hampshire just before last November’s elections, to campaign on behalf of Kelly.

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