Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden took jabs at President Donald Trump during a campaign fundraiser in downtown Palo Alto on Thursday afternoon, citing his own long resume in politics and electoral strength in Midwestern states as advantages should the two face off for the White House in 2020.
Speaking at Greek restaurant Evvia Estiatorio at 420 Emerson St. near University Avenue, the former vice president gave a 30-minute speech that blasted Trump without speaking in-depth about the Ukraine controversy or the president's latest comments. But he sounded upbeat about his chances against the president.
He argued that Trump's policies have "eviscerated the middle class." But Biden warned against a "socialist" response to the president.
"You've got to share in the benefits. That's been broken. You don't need some radical, radical socialist kind of answer to any of this — you've just got to make capitalism work like it's supposed to work," Biden said. "We've got to save capitalism from this guy."
Pacing in front of a wall of ceramic plates and under a shelf with three wine barrels, Biden — in a characteristically rambling speech that had attendees laughing and applauding at several points — touted his foreign policy experience and reminisced about growing up in Delaware and his long political career.
Asked about his path to victory in the electoral college, Biden cited his support in Midwestern states and added "I think we can win Georgia. And I think we can win North Carolina." He noted that Georgia, Texas and Arizona would all be "a stretch, I don't want to jinx myself."
"All kidding aside, I've always been able to do very, very well in ethnic communities," Biden said. "And I say something outrageous, but it's true, where I come from, the most loyal constituency I've had is the African American community, I still take a look at the numbers, by far and away, that is the base of my support and loyalty and it has stayed."
Biden also gave his assessment of the 2016 presidential election.
"I did 83 events for Hillary; I campaigned like the devil for her," Biden said. "But what happened was, and she talks about it, you got sucked into the trap of the stuff that Trump was laying. He wants you in a mudfight."
"But when you respond to that, it brings you back down into that, and that got us into the whole thing, anyway. So I feel confident, based on not just the polling but all the campaigns I've run."
Speaking about the four states Hillary Clinton lost closely — Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida — Biden said, "I'm confident we will win those states, not because I'm better than Hillary but because the time is different.
"Everybody knows who Donald Trump is, even those who are for him, they know his character or lack thereof," Biden said. "We've got to let them know who we are: We choose hope over despair and fear. We choose science over fiction. ... We choose truth over lies."
Biden was asked about what he'd look for in a vice president — a question he joked he had a lot of expertise to answer.
"Look, if I could just manufacture someone out of the blue, I would very much think it's important to have a woman, and even a woman of color, or someone of color as vice president," Biden said. "But I've learned something different — not different, something else. The single-most important thing you have to have as a president is someone you know is ideologically compatible with you, that you in fact share the same fundamental concerns and values."
Biden also blasted Trump on foreign policy. "If this man is re-elected, I predict to you ... you're going to see the end of NATO as we know it, the single greatest significant organization we've ever put together to limit power," Biden said. "It's imperative for our national security that he not be re-elected."
Biden emphasized how distressed he was by Trump's actions, addressing people in the room who worked in the entertainment industry: "You couldn't make this up. It'd be hard if you tried to do a sitcom about this; it really is bizarre."
He talked about the hate exemplified by the white nationalists in Charlottesville, South Carolina, arguing that Trump has "abandoned" the values of the United States.
"The thing that I underestimated was, I thought you've got it back under the rock," Biden said. "But all it needs is just a little oxygen to get back out, especially with a leader who believes that's the way he stays in power."
Outside of the fundraiser, Biden didn't stop to speak to the gaggle of journalists. Asked for comment on Trump's recent call for China and Ukraine to investigate Biden for alleged improprieties related to the corporate connections of his son, Hunter Biden, the former vice president uttered that he doesn't listen much to what the president has to say before swiftly departing in a black SUV. No evidence of any impropriety has emerged related to the Bidens' activities in China and accusations related to the Ukraine controversy were previously debunked.
Nanci Nishimura, a donor who attended the fundraiser at Evvia, said that she was inspired by Biden's speech. He talked about raising up the nation, she said.
Real estate magnate and fundraiser co-host George Marcus, owner of Evvia Estiatorio and a big donor for the campaigns of former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama, described Biden as "probably the most sterling individual that we could imagine would occupy the office of the White House."
Michelle Kraus, a tech executive and Democratic operative who also co-hosted the fundraiser, said she was also inspired by Biden.
"He's the real deal. It's heartwarming to see somebody so prepared and ready to land on his feet," she said.
One of the most memorable moments that showed Biden's connection with regular folk was when Marcus, invited the 25 to 30 restaurant staff members who had served and cooked for the fundraiser to come out. Biden greeted them warmly, Kraus said.
Biden raised $15.2 million in the third quarter, bumping his campaign total to $36.7 million since launching his bid for the presidency in May during the second quarter. A full 98% of all donations were from donors contributing $200 or less, his campaign announced Thursday. Teachers were the bulk of the donors. Biden's campaign does not accept donations from federally funded lobbyists and corporate PACs.
"Today's fundraising totals put the campaign in a strong position as we enter the fall. The question any campaign faces at this point is whether or not you have the resources to compete in early states and sustain your efforts beyond. Our campaign unequivocally does and builds on our strength each week," said Greg Schultz, campaign manager of Biden's presidential campaign.
Thursday's fundraiser in Palo Alto was hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Denise Bauer in addition to notable local figures, including Dashboard Technology President Wade Randlett and his wife, Lorna, and tech executive Michelle Kraus.
Biden arrived at Evvia Estiatorio at about 1:30 p.m. and departed Palo Alto shortly before 3 p.m. He was scheduled to attend two fundraisers in San Francisco on Thursday evening, including one hosted by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband, Richard Blum.