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Biden makes electability pitch in New Hampshire

In city that backed Trump in 2016, Democratic voters want a winner

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden took a selfie during a campaign stop in Claremont, N.H., on Friday.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden took a selfie during a campaign stop in Claremont, N.H., on Friday.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

CLAREMONT, N.H. — With just 10 days before the first voters get their say, former vice president Joe Biden used the backdrop of this blue-collar city that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 to make his pitch that he is the best candidate to defeat Trump.

Speaking to a few hundred people in a brick-walled banquet room, Biden read a 25-minute stump speech, shook hands and took pictures, and departed without taking questions from voters.

Biden’s message: He is the most electable candidate in the Democratic field; he has the most experience to do the job; and he can unite the country.

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“Many of my colleagues, who are good people, think I am naive, and think that there is no way that we can, in fact, generate some kind of consensus between Democrats and Republicans,” said Biden. “This endless war between Democrats and Republicans, it’s deadly for us.”

Just his mere presence in this small city along the Vermont border pleased New Hampshire state Representative John Cloutier, of Claremont, a local Democratic power broker who is backing Biden.

“While Bernie Sanders won this city in the primary last time and Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] is very well organized here, I do believe this is a Biden place culturally and I am happy that he is here getting visibility at the right time,” Cloutier said.

Polls in New Hampshire show that Biden is in a three-way statistical tie with Sanders and Buttigieg.

On the same day that his campaign launched an ad in Iowa with an explicit pitch on electability, Biden reminded the crowd that Trump has often discussed Biden. Of course, the Senate impeachment trial taking place in Washington is largely premised on the charge that Trump used the power of his office to pressure a foreign government undermine Biden.

"You ever see a president spending so much time trying to prevent someone from being the nominee? I wonder why,” Biden said, suggesting that Trump knows he would be the biggest threat.

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The focus on electability is something that many voters agree with.

“I am trying to figure out who can best beat Trump,” said Kris Westney, 67, of Charlestown, N.H., who said that seeing Biden was her first presidential primary event in years. “Is Biden that person? Maybe. I was frankly surprised that I liked him as much as I did.”

But Biden can rest assured that he, at least, has one vote in the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary.

Penny Alcone, 77, of Meriden, said she had already voted for Biden via absentee ballot.

“I think he is just awesome and he can unite the country,” said Alcone.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.