By Carter Allen, Alexa Barnes, Robbie Heilberg, Joshua Ludden, Sophia Solano
NASHUA, N.H. — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s Get-Out-The-Vote rally Sunday afternoon highlighted his despair several times, evoking more teary eyes than applause.
While other candidates create hopeful or uplifting campaign messages that promote a specific vision of the future of America, the former vice president used his time before Tuesday’s primary to connect with voters by talking about his own struggles.
A local supporter, Michelle O’Leary, opened the event at Alvirne High School with a story of her son, who suffers from a life-threatening illness and now has a chance to live longer because of the health care improvements offered in the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s landmark legislation.
That led Biden to a story about his late son, Beau, the eldest of his children who died at 46. Within the first four minutes of his speech, he gave a synopsis of Beau’s life trajectory and how his illness affected it. Then he talked about Obamacare.
“I do remember, Michelle,” he said, as his voice cracked. “You brought it back. Without the Affordable Care Act, what would’ve happened.”
Biden got his first applause 15 minutes into his 23-minute speech when he mentioned the Violence Against Women Act. At the end of his speech, he spoke of loss rather than what his voters have to gain.
“Like many of you, I’ve lost a lot in my life,” Biden said. “I’ve lost my wife and daughter in a car accident. I lost my son to cancer. But I’ll be damned if I lose my country,” he said, prompting the loudest applause of the evening.
Biden then moved to audience questions, which yielded long-winded responses, putting the event over time by about an hour.
The rally was 24-year-old Trevin Morgan’s second campaign event of the day, sandwiched between a rally for Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s town hall. Morgan was still undecided but said he was leaning toward Buttigeig.
“We’ve had four years of spicy chicken wings,” Morgan said,“and I just want a glass of milk for the next four years.”
Biden’s campaign has leveraged his experience as a senator and vice president as his greatest asset, but for many voters, Washington credentials aren’t persuasive.
“He’s been in DC, and not that he’s done a bad job, but he’s been in there a long time,” Morgan said.
Other supporters, such as Michelle Dougan, a New Hampshire resident, said she valued Biden’s focus on health, “health care is important to me in this election because I just transferred from a job where it was too expensive for me to afford.”
And Massachusetts resident Mike O’Connell found Biden to be a trusted presence.
“He’s steady, he’s reliable, he’s been through the process. He can bring America back from this nightmare,” O’Connell said.
In one response, to an undecided voter’s question about potential cabinet nominees, Biden described a diverse, hypothetical roster.
“My administration will look like the country. It will be made up of women, and blacks, and browns, and people that represent the diversity of the country, just like our administration,” he said.
Although he frequently rambled, he made many connections with the audience. Biden crossed the rope line to interact with people for nearly an hour after the event officially ended, leaving only after his staff’s prodding.