For N.H. progressive voters, Biden poses choice of electability or issues 

  • Joe Biden was in the Upper Valley on Friday addressing crowds and speaking to voters. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

  • Joe Biden was in the Upper Valley on Friday addressing crowds and speaking to voters. By Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 8/23/2019 6:45:27 PM

As President Donald Trump prepared to head off to the G-7 summit of the world’s top economic powers, the man who hopes to replace him in the White House was just getting rolling in front of a crowd in Hanover.

“As long as this man is president – and this is no hyperbole – we are in trouble,” former vice president Joe Biden said Friday.

Biden – the front-runner right now in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination – jabbed at the president while speaking at a campaign event at Dartmouth College.

Reacting to Trump’s bizarre comment during a Wednesday news conference with reporters when he said, “I am the chosen one,” Biden imitated the president, saying “I am the savior.”

“If anybody took this administration so far and made a movie about it – it would never happen,” he said. “Do you think anybody would believe it?”

Biden spoke and took questions for well over an hour at a town hall focused on health care, a top issue among Democratic presidential primary voters.

Biden once again endorsed the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, the signature domestic achievement during Biden’s eight years as vice president in former president Barack Obama’s administration.

“We made significant progress. We have to finish the job,” he argued.

Biden is the only top-tier candidate in the Democratic field who doesn’t support a government-run, single-payer Medicare-for-all plan.

“There’s a lot of people running in our party, good people, who want to get rid of Obamacare, starting over with something new. I’m not for that,” he said. “My health care plan sets out in detail how we can protect and build on Obamacare to make sure every American has affordable, quality health care options while at lowest possible health care costs.”

Taking an indirect jab at one of his top rivals for the nomination, Biden said his plan costs a lot of money, but not nearly as much as the plan from Sen. Bernie Sanders – $740 billion compared to $30 trillion.

That’s the price tag – at a minimum – that Sanders has acknowledged his Medicare-for-all plan would cost.

“We’ll build a new public health option like Medicare within the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said. “Only everyone will have a chance to buy in if they wish to. If you have plans already working, if you have a generous union-backed insurance plan and you’re giving up wages to get it, you are in fact entitled to keep it as long as it exists.”

He vowed to take on the pharmaceutical giants over the high costs of prescription drugs, saying “we’re going to throw the book quite frankly at the pharmaceutical companies that have abused the power to make outrageous profits off the backs of Americans.”

Biden’s stop in Hanover – the first in a two-day swing in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state – comes as his campaign touted their candidate’s standing as the Democratic White House hopeful with the best chance of beating President Trump in next year’s general election.

In Biden’s first TV commercial of his 2020 campaign – which started running on Iowa airwaves Tuesday – the announcer in the ad says “we have to beat Donald Trump and all the polls agree Joe Biden is the strongest Democrat to do the job. No one is more qualified.”

As the announcer speaks, graphics pop up on the screen showing a series of polls where Biden’s beating the Republican president in hypothetical 2020 match-ups.

The ad started playing on Iowa TV a day after another obvious appeal to electability by the Biden campaign.

As the moderate front-runner, Biden is a bit of a riddle for some Democratic voters who have been energized by more progressive candidates. They are faced with supporting electability or agreeing on the issues.

On Monday, the candidate’s wife, Jill Biden, said at a Granite State campaign event in Manchester, acknowledged as much.

“Your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, health care, than Joe is, but you’ve got to look at who’s going to win this election. And maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, ‘Okay, I personally like so-and-so better,’ but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump,” she stressed.

Karen Summer made the short ride over the Connecticut River from Hartford, Vt., to see Biden. Summer, a Democratic voter, said beating Trump in next year’s election is “not all that matters, but that’s number one. Absolutely without a question.”

Summer said she’s still undecided but ranked the former vice president is in her top five favorites right now.

“One of the reason’s I’m here is I want to see if he actually has any kind of spark or vigor,” she said.

For Dartmouth undergrad Maria Roodnitsky, it’s all about the issues.

“I’m honestly am not for the ‘who’s going to beat Trump’ because that didn’t work with the Hillary campaign,” she said. “That’s why my parents supported her in 2016 and I would prefer to support someone who I’m fully behind rather than someone who we simply think is going to beat the current Republican nominee.”

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