Trump and Biden Get Personal in Iowa Skirmish

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“More than 100 Democrats have signed up for the Bernie Sanders government takeover of health care,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Sanders’s “Medicare for all” plan. “We have 180 million Americans having great private health care. That would all be taken away. Democrats also support the $100 trillion Green New Deal, how about that beauty.” Making an oblique reference to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mr. Trump said the bill was “made up by a young woman, who is, well, let’s see how she works out.”

Public and private polls that show Mr. Trump trailing Mr. Biden in critical states have contributed to his preoccupation with Mr. Biden, whom the president has told aides to describe as old and feeble (Mr. Biden is 76; Mr. Trump will turn 73 this week).

Up to this point, Mr. Biden has largely resisted responding to Mr. Trump’s individual broadsides, insisting repeatedly that he wants to avoid a “mud-wrestling match” with the president and often ignoring shouted questions from reporters about Mr. Trump’s remarks.

But that hardly means Mr. Biden avoids discussing Mr. Trump. He is centering his campaign squarely on defeating the president, calling him an “aberration.” It is a point of emphasis sharply at odds with several of his Democratic opponents, who believe Trumpism has redefined the Republican Party and say the country needs bigger, structural change that goes beyond defeating one man.

At every turn, Mr. Biden is seeking to keep the focus on a possible general election matchup between himself and Mr. Trump. He has recently visited Pennsylvania and Ohio, important general election swing states, arguing that he is able to connect in the industrial Midwest and torching Mr. Trump’s leadership approach.

While many of the voters who filed into his Ottumwa event shared Mr. Biden’s near-single-minded focus on Mr. Trump, praising Mr. Biden as someone who could appeal to moderates and independents, Cheri Scherr, 63, said she had hoped to hear “more about his ideas.”

“I wish he would talk less about Trump,” said Ms. Scherr, of Pella, Iowa. “We’re Democrats, we know why we don’t like Trump.”

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