(WASHINGTON) — With less than a month to go until Iowans head to caucus on Feb. 3, former Vice President Joe Biden is betting big on foreign policy, launching a revamped foreign policy ad with a fresh focus on Iran in the wake of escalating tensions between that country and the United States.
The ad, entitled ‘Tested,’ updates a previous version that first hit the airwaves in November with a new focus on Iran, beginning with news reports following the U.S. airstrikes that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
“We live in the most dangerous moment in a generation. Our world, set on edge,” a narrator says over black and white photos of protests with torn American flags.
“This is a moment that requires strong, steady, stable leadership. We need someone tested, and trusted around the world. Joe Biden — a president with the experience to lead on day one,” the ad continues, showing images of Biden as vice president and echoing the pitch Biden often gives to voters on the trail that there is no time for “on the job training” for the next president.
While the idea of restoring America’s standing on the world stage has been a core pillar of Biden’s campaign since entering the race, he’s begun ramping up his forceful rebuke of President Trump’s foreign policy and decision-making on the trail, increasing referencing Iran as the situation developed while on a bus tour across Iowa this past weekend, and delivering a forceful statement on Trump’s decision to take out Soleimani in New York City Tuesday afternoon.
Advisors to Biden see his foreign policy background as a unique advantage, allowing him to flex on his credentials as the former Vice President and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
According to Professor Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University the focus on foreign policy could be a doubled-edged sword for Biden.
“It is not a spotless record, and so you know, someone like Sanders is going to use his turning to foreign policy as a way to question his leadership, and this claim that not only is he most electable but he would just be the ‘bestest’ president so it will be something that is not totally easy for Biden to use,” Zelizer told ABC News.
Indeed, Biden has faced increasing incoming fire from some of his 2020 competitors, particularly Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has called into question his judgement on past foreign decisions.
“Joe Biden voted and helped lead the effort for the war in Iraq, the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country.” Sanders said on CNN Monday night.
Biden has largely brushed off Sanders’ criticism of his vote on the Iraq war, and his campaign reiterated that the vice president viewed the vote as a mistake.
The gloves are coming off as Iowa nears.
— Molly Nagle (@MollyNagle3) January 2, 2020
The former vice president’s campaign says for several years Biden has been clear that he wishes he would have made a different decision, and argued he has explained his vote on the Iraq war multiple times.
Biden’s team argues that rather than engaging with his competitors, they are keeping a tight focus on message of unity, which can often be viewed as a message promising to calm things down and reassuring voters of the stability Biden can provide, while also being the best bet to take on Trump.
“While the entire country is having a conversation about the kind of leadership that we’re seeing in the White House, and the kind of danger that the President has put Americans abroad in because of the way he’s made these decisions, I think it’s clear that the Vice President is, rather than telling, he’s showing what a commander in Chief looks and sounds like,” a Biden aide argued.
“It’s that kind of juxtaposition that will be an effective strategy and, like we said, we’re already seeing voters responding to it,” the aide said.
It’s not just competitors who have questioned Biden’s foreign policy record, though — voters have raised concerns as well.
During a town hall in Des Moines on his latest bus tour in Iowa, Biden was asked about his mixed record on foreign policy and if voters can trust his judgement now, given his vote on the Iraq war and his advice to not move ahead on the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden.
“I will put my total record against anybody in public life. I’m also the guy that confronted Slobodan Milošević and brought him down. I’m also the guy that put together the effort to not send significant troops to Afghanistan. I’m also the guy that put together the effort to bring together NATO, to hold them, to hold the Russians accountable for the invasion of Ukraine,” Biden replied.
Biden’s foreign policy pitch at that event resonated with Chase Lamp, a 30 year-old teacher from outside Des Moines.
“When he was talking about Foreign policy, that’s where I was thinking about when he debated Paul Ryan in 2012 and he handed Paul Ryan his tush. That’s what I thought about. I was like “okay, that’s the guy I thought he might be,” Lamp told ABC News.
Lamp said he was “75-80 percent there” on voting for Biden, and the former vice president’s remarks did help to move the needle even further for him, but he would still likely go in uncommitted to his caucus.
What remains to be seen is how much of an impact foreign policy—and the escalation with Iran specifically—will continue have on Hawkeye state voters ahead of the first contest of the 2020 election. Zelizer says it could have sticking power heading into the final months ahead of votes.
“I think it will matter. I mean, it will matter surely that there will be Democrats and some Republicans who are shaken by what just happened. It was like a very tangible moment when the instability in the White House seemed like it could possibly have really severe repercussions. And so I think I do think for people who follow, and even those who don’t follow totally It was kind of scary. And that could play that Biden’s advantage.”
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