ST. LOUIS, Mo. — With the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse standing sentry behind him, former Vice President Joe Biden delivered a promise of unity to Missourians gathered in Kiener Plaza Saturday.
Just three days before Missouri’s presidential preference primary — where Biden and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders are set to square off in Missouri — the former vice president began stumping in the Show-Me State, starting with a stop in St. Louis before heading to Kansas City. His surrogates also descended on Missouri over the weekend, and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is set to travel the state Monday.
“You know, Senator Sanders likes to say he’ll need a record turnout to defeat Donald Trump. He’s right. And we’re the campaign that’s going to do that record turnout,” Biden said during his 10-minute stump speech.
Biden highlighted “the incredible enthusiasm the St. Louis campaign has generated” and joked that he came to town because he “got to meet Lou Brock.” But he also expressed condolences for the passing of longtime St. Louis Alderman Sam Moore last month as he addressed those gathered in the park on a spring Saturday.
Ahead of Tuesday’s primary election — with Missouri’s 68 delegates at stake — several polls have Biden ahead of Sanders. But the surveys show just how unreliable polls can be: One has Biden up by 30 points; another has him ahead by just four.
And if 2016 is any indicator, the primary contest between eventual nominee Hillary Clinton and Sanders was a close one, with the former secretary of state pulling ahead by about 1,500 votes.
Still, former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley believes Biden has an ability to reach a broader group of people throughout Missouri and the U.S. than the progressive independent senator from Vermont. O’Malley pointed to what he sees as a “cascading of voters” that have coalesced around Biden following the South Carolina primary and last week’s Super Tuesday.
“A very big factor of what’s happened in the last 10 days is that voters are expressing a strong desire to return to having a decent person in the White House,” O’Malley, who introduced Biden at the St. Louis rally, told The Missouri Times in an interview. “One of the things that differentiates Vice President Biden from Senator Sanders is the ability of the vice president to reach out and touch a broader coalition of people who are interested in returning decency and fairness and a feeling of respect and respectability to our institutions.”
“I really think that Democrats are going to be looking for who is most capable of beating President Trump in November and who would restore a sense of decency to the White House, which all Democrats feel has been missing under the chaos and toxicity of the Trump administration.”
A bevy of Missouri politicians endorsed Biden ahead of Tuesday’s contest, including former Gov. Jay Nixon and state Sens. Jamilah Nasheed and Karla May.
But on Monday, it’s Sanders’ turn to rally the Show-Me State in St. Louis.
“I believe that Bernie should be the next president of the United States because he’s a candidate who actually cares about working people,” state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge said during Sunday’s This Week in Missouri Politics. “He doesn’t just talk the talk, but he walks the walk.”
Still, O’Malley is confident in Biden’s ability to rally voters on both sides of the aisle in 2020.
“Missouri is a wonderful place. It’s my home. I have on three separate occasions after I completed government service elsewhere again selected it to be my home,” he said. “I love Missouri. I love our culture, and I love our decency. I think that most people here in the state — even establishment Republicans — will reject Trump in the general election for somebody like Vice President Biden.”
Despite the field of Democratic candidates drastically narrowing ahead of Missouri’s primary, several candidates will still be on the ballot. A full list can be found here.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.