Bold Climate Penguins in The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal Excerpt: During Mr. Biden’s event at a Des Moines brewery Wednesday evening, a half-dozen demonstrators wore penguin masks near the stage as Mr. Biden spoke. They held signs that read, “Climate is a Crisis.” Mr. Biden told them he would address climate change, saying, “By the way, I got there before any of the other candidates did, I might add.” He later noted that he had authored a Senate bill to address climate change in the mid-1980s. “You’re preaching to the choir,” he said.

“Bernie shook it up in a big way four years ago… and now most of the candidates are playing off that agenda,” said Ed Fallon, a former Democratic legislator and climate-change activist in Iowa.

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Link to original article: https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-biden-faces-early-heat-from-the-left-11556744329

By Ken Thomas, The Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2019

Excerpt:

POLITICS
Joe Biden Faces Early Heat From the Left
Former vice president’s trip through Iowa shows challenge front-runner faces winning over party’s progressives

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—Joe Biden is getting a preview of what it might take to persuade liberals in his own Democratic Party that he is the right person to defeat President Trump.

Traveling through Iowa this week for the first time since launching his 2020 campaign, the former vice president has dug into President Trump’s stewardship of the nation at every stop and pointed to his partnership with President Obama. Yet he continues to find himself on the receiving end of critiques from the left of his voting record (too moderate) and fundraising prowess (too dependent on big donors).

“This is the burden of being a front-runner, especially so early on and with such a large field,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer with the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org and a veteran of presidential campaigns. “Your record is going to be picked at.”

During Mr. Biden’s event at a Des Moines brewery Wednesday evening, a half-dozen demonstrators wore penguin masks near the stage as Mr. Biden spoke. They held signs that read, “Climate is a Crisis.” Mr. Biden told them he would address climate change, saying, “By the way, I got there before any of the other candidates did, I might add.” He later noted that he had authored a Senate bill to address climate change in the mid-1980s. “You’re preaching to the choir,” he said.

Hours after Mr. Biden kicked off his campaign last week, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders rattled off a series of votes in Congress—on everything from trade to the war in Iraq—in which they reached different conclusions.

“When people look at my record versus Vice President Biden’s record, I helped lead the fight against NAFTA. He voted for NAFTA,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview with CNN’S “AC360.”

Mr. Biden, asked about Mr. Sanders’s criticism during a stop at an ice cream shop in Monticello, Iowa, Tuesday, declined to enter the fray.

“I’m not going to get in a debate with my colleagues here,” he told reporters, adding that he was proud of his record.

Mr. Sanders used a similar playbook against Hillary Clinton during their 2016 nomination battle, questioning her support for trade agreements forged during her husband’s administration and her paid speeches to Wall Street bankers.

This time, Mr. Biden is likely to face incoming criticism from more than a single candidate in a field that could reach two dozen.

Mr. Biden leads early polling, helped by goodwill in the party and his ties to former President Obama.

He has made President Trump the focal point of his attention, casting the election as a national emergency and aiming to turn the race into a one-on-one matchup with the president. Mr. Trump has responded with a series of tweets criticizing Mr. Biden’s endorsement from a national firefighters union, suggesting that the union’s leaders are Biden allies but its members prefer Mr. Trump.

For Mr. Biden, the implication is that the party needs to focus on winning as opposed to adhering to a series of litmus tests—a message that resonates with his supporters.

“Bernie is promising the moon,” said Shirley Healy, a 76-year-old retired nurse who saw Mr. Biden during an event in Dubuque. “We need to get back what Trump took away.”

But in Mr. Biden’s third presidential attempt, the role of front-runner is a new one. He failed to notch 1% in the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and dropped out before the New Hampshire primary. His first campaign in 1987 ended after about four months.

In his first few days of campaigning, Mr. Biden has sketched out parts of his policy agenda, promising to restore the “dignity of work,” set a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, provide a public option through Medicare to expand the reach of Obamacare, and reverse the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations from Mr. Trump’s tax overhaul.

But Mr. Biden has stopped short of endorsing a single-payer, Medicare-for-All health system espoused by Mr. Sanders and several candidates, a wealth tax proposed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, or a Green New Deal-style plan pushed by liberal members of Congress.

That could be a liability in Iowa, where a March poll by The Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom found that more than half of likely Democratic caucus-goers would be satisfied with the nation becoming more socialist.

“Bernie shook it up in a big way four years ago… and now most of the candidates are playing off that agenda,” said Ed Fallon, a former Democratic legislator and climate-change activist in Iowa.

Shortly after Mr. Biden entered the race, Sen. Warren noted their differences over a 2005 bankruptcy overhaul which she said made it more difficult for low-income families to find relief through bankruptcy. Delaware, which Mr. Biden represented in the Senate for 36 years, is home to several financial institutions.

“I got in that fight because they just didn’t have anyone, and Joe Biden was on the side of credit card companies,” Ms. Warren said. Mr. Biden’s Democratic rivals, meanwhile, are trying to raise millions online from small donors and have sworn off money from lobbyists. They have zeroed in on Mr. Biden’s $6.3 million fundraising haul in the first 24 hours of his campaign.

Ms. Warren, who has tried to separate herself from the field by forgoing traditional fundraising events, noted Mr. Biden’s largess in an email to her supporters.

“It helps that he hosted a swanky private fundraiser for wealthy donors at the home of the guy who runs Comcast’s lobbying shop,” a reference to Mr. Biden’s first fundraiser at the Philadelphia home of David L. Cohen, Comcast’s executive vice president.

But defeating Mr. Trump remains the top concern for many Democrats, who said they are willing to look past specific issues.

“I’m more liberal than him but this is a good, realistic option,” said Hannah Riley, a 23-year-old nursing student who attended Mr. Biden’s event in Cedar Rapids. “Winning needs to be our biggest priority.”

Write to Ken Thomas at ken.thomas@wsj.com