Mr. Biden can be a choppy, long-winded orator, but he is at his strongest in individual conversations with voters. On this trip, Mr. Biden is prioritizing that tactic — recording birthday videos for voters’ relatives, providing ice cream money to a 10-year-old, bonding with those who have confronted cancer, like his son Beau did.
His stump speeches can still be long and meandering. But instead of taking questions in front of the crowd, as he has in other town hall-style settings, Mr. Biden is inviting voters to come up after his events and talk to him personally.
“I know it drives, you know, staff crazy, because I spend time with folks, I have trouble walking away from them,” Mr. Biden said of his approach, speaking in Emmetsburg on Monday morning. “I just find it to be the most significant thing you can do. And this bus tour allows that, that’s one of the things I like about it.”
At Mr. Biden’s early events on the tour, it was often former Gov. Tom Vilsack, an Iowa Democrat and coveted endorser, who delivered the closing address — speaking after the candidate. Mr. Vilsack, a measured Midwesterner, argued that the former vice president pursues goals that are both “progressive” and “realistic,” and cast him as an empathetic leader who can win in crucial general election battlegrounds.
The Biden-Vilsack combination was powerful to some voters.
“As he spoke I just felt that presidential moment I needed to hear,” said Melanie Langner, 46, of Storm Lake. “Tom Vilsack put me over the edge. Being empathetic is one of the most missed qualities in the country. I heard it. It emanates from him.”
Mr. Vilsack suggested to reporters that the voters Mr. Biden is engaging on this trip aren’t necessarily the “rah-rah” Democrats visible at party events that draw committed activists.