Jill Biden

Jill Biden, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, visited Ottumwa Sunday evening as part of a campaign swing on behalf of her husband, and brought former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack in support.

OTTUMWA — About a dozen people braved some of the coldest weather yet this winter to hear from Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and she brought along a very familiar face.

The pair had also been in Centerville at the Hungry Cow earlier in the day.

As the caucuses approach, campaigns begin to put in longer hours as they seek last-minute support. Winter does few favors. Biden had four events on Sunday’s schedule, ending with Ottumwa, and this weekend’s wintry conditions meant a 4 a.m. start time for the flight to Iowa. She said she had a simple message for her husband after the schedule took shape: “Joe, you’d better win this.”

While Joe Biden is well known to Iowans for his previous two bids for the nomination and his eight years as vice president under Barack Obama, Sunday’s visit was aimed in part at letting potential supporters in on who he is off the campaign trail. Biden said he made an impression from their first date.

While she at the time “wore my hair down to the middle of my waist, and so did most of the guys I dated,” Joe Biden showed up in a suit and leather dress shoes. She knew his first wife had been killed in a crash, and that if she decided to be with him it needed to be a lifelong commitment to both him and his children. Forty-two years later, that’s what it has become.

Why talk about that? Biden, who teaches English and composition, said it’s simple. “Stories connect us. They can inspire us.”

Biden offered a pitch designed to reach people who simply want someone who can defeat President Donald Trump and who may be skittish about the most aggressive ideas being proposed by the party’s most left-leaning candidates.

“His ideas are bold and progressive,” Biden said, “but they’re achievable.”

Along with Biden for the campaign visit was former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Vilsack served as Secretary of Agriculture in the Obama administration, but his relationship with the Bidens goes back much further.

Vilsack also focused on electability, saying Joe Biden is the only candidate leading Trump by wide margins in critical swing states. And, like Jill, he pointed to the ACA as evidence of what he can accomplish.

“I watched Barack Obama send Joe Biden to Congress,” to secure votes, Vilsack said. “Why did he send Joe? Because he had the relationships.”

The Bidens and Vilsacks have been political allies as far back as 1987, when Christie Vilsack started Teachers for Biden in the lead up to the 1988 caucuses. The couples have remained close since.

“What can you do to say thank you for that kind of friendship and support?” Biden asked.

Vilsack had an answer.

“What can you do to say thank you?” he asked. “Win.”

Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


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