By Ken Ritter
LAS VEGAS — Former Vice President Joe Biden brought an alarmist warning to a diverse crowd of Democrats late Saturday in early-caucus Nevada during a town hall at an elementary school in a historically minority Las Vegas neighborhood.
Biden opened the event saying that as long as Donald Trump is president, the security and future of the United States is at risk.
“As long as he’s there, everything we care about as a nation, and the issues we care about, are in the balance,” Biden said.
Trump state campaign chief Adam Laxalt responded that voters in 2020 will reject Biden and the Democratic “extremist liberal vision for America” and “choose freedom and economic growth instead.”
With fewer than 100 days before Nevada Democratic party caucuses, Biden is among the front-runners in crowded field of Democratic candidates for president.
His evening appearance drew more than 250 people one day before Biden and most other Democratic presidential candidates are due to attend a campaign event at a Las Vegas Strip resort. Biden skipped another Democratic party event in the Los Angeles-area city of Long Beach to be in Nevada.
He also plans to fly Sunday to a campaign event in Elko, a ranching hub in northeast Nevada and home to the annual midwinter National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Many in his Las Vegas audience said they knew who and what they were going to see.
“We’ve got to take this country back from Donald Trump,” said David Humdy, 71, a retired Disney TV executive who lives in Las Vegas. Humdy said he has been to several Biden rallies since Biden announced his bid for president.
“I honestly believe he’s the only one who can beat Donald Trump,” Humdy said. “It’s because of his experience. I think people know they can rely on Joe Biden.”
Abel Figueroa, a retired Las Vegas construction worker, said he and his daughters, Sylvia and Isabel Figueroa, were willing to spend their weekend evening at the Biden event “to help spread the word to others who are not here.”
In English and Spanish, Figueroa said he trusted Biden because of his years in government.
“We’ve seen him for eight years and I think he’ll be a good president,” Figueroa said.
Answering the first audience question, about poverty, Biden drew applause saying the minimum wage should be $15 an hour.
Asked by an elementary school student about health care, Biden took a swipe at the “Medicare for All” proposal that rival candidate Elizabeth Warren outlined several days ago without mentioning the Massachusetts senator by name.
Warren has projected passage of a “Medicare for All” program by the third year of her presidency, in an acknowledgement of the difficulty of shifting to a system of government-run health care.
“’Medicare for All’ is a great idea,” Biden said. “But if anybody tells you what they’re going to give you is going to take 10 years, think twice.”