Jill Biden is taking on Democratic criticism of her husband, particularly Bernie Sanders’ recent comments that the former vice president has too much “baggage” in his political record that he argues makes it difficult to generate excitement and energy needed to defeat President Donald Trump.
“That’s ridiculous,” Biden told CNN when asked about Sanders’ comments during an extensive interview with CNN on a two-day swing through New Hampshire. “Joe has been under attack because he’s doing so well. And I don’t like it that Democrats attack other Democrats. We’re in this race against Donald Trump. We’re not against any of the other Democrats.”
She added, “As I travel around the country people are saying to me, ‘Jill, we don’t like it, that the Democrats are attacking one another,’ and I agree with that.”
The former second lady has quickly risen as her husband’s top surrogate and is one of the most active spouses hitting the campaign trail. The Biden campaign has deployed her to each of the early states, often serving as a closer for her husband’s speeches as well as headlining events of her own, with the former second lady telling CNN she sees her campaign role as being a “partner” to her husband.
“Joe and I’ve been married for 42 years. This is how we’ve always done things. I’ve campaigned in every election,” she said. “I go one way, he goes the other way, and so we can cover more ground and talk to more people.”
“He’s always supported my career. And this is a critical time for me to support him because, you know, I want change,” she said. ” I want a new president.”
Like her husband, Biden has expressed frustration with the current occupant of the White House and says Trump’s handling of the crisis with Iran is of top concern. Biden, who has worked extensively with military families since her time as second lady, recounted that a woman approached her at an event in Manchester this week and said her husband was serving in Iraq when bases were hit by Iranian missiles.
“That’s who we have to think about is our military and our military families. Think about what they’re going through they don’t know where their loved ones are — if they are safe,” she said. “Our son [Beau] was in Iraq for a year. And I know what that felt like, and I know that every night I went to bed praying he was going to be okay. And I heard it in her voice and I saw it in her eyes. And she’s afraid”
“I think she’s mirroring, really, what Americans feel because Donald Trump is just so erratic. He does not get things out, he does not have a strategy. He does not think of the consequences of his actions,” she said. “I look at the future of America, of this country, and I know that we have to be positive and safe going forward, and as a mother and grandmother, nothing means more to me.”
She’s also watched as her family has become a target for Trump, who has launched baseless attacks on her husband and son Hunter for his work with a Ukrainian natural gas company.
“We knew Donald Trump was going to be a difficult opponent, that he was never going to play fair. And so I think we were ready for whatever was going to come our way, she’s said. “I’ve been in this business for 42 years, so I think I have built up a resilience to whatever comes my way…I think it’s important to be positive about it and move forward in a positive direction.”
“I’m a moderate! I’m right here in the middle”
As she spoke to college students in Manchester this week, a moderator suggested Biden take questions from the left side of the room, saying “You’re in a Democratic Party. You need to go to your left.”
“Well not too far left! I’m a moderate!” said Biden, walking towards the middle of the aisle as she waved her hands, adding “I’m right here in the middle. You see me here in the middle!”
Biden espouses many of the same political views as her husband. Part of her push in New Hampshire this week was geared toward independents who could provide a boost to her husband’s campaign, including making her pitch at an intimate house party in Bedford attended by many voters identifying as independent.
Asked about recent comments from New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that “Democrats can be too big of a tent,” Biden said, “No, she’s not right.”
“Democrats can’t win without Independent support,” Biden told CNN .”A lot of people say, you know, “I voted for Trump last time, but I’m sorry I did it.” And they said, “I want to vote for someone who is pragmatic, who’s a moderate, who’s reasonable, who can achieve things.’ And, and that’s my husband. So, I think people want someone a moderate, who can appeal to Democrats, Independents and Republicans.”
Taking a break from teaching to campaign
Biden has devoted much of her life to teaching, even working as a professor at a community college while she served as Second Lady. She’s been spotted grading papers between campaign events and often courts teachers to support her husband’s campaign.
But this semester, she’s taking a break from teaching, a difficult decision for Biden as she turns her attention full-time to helping her husband win the Democratic nomination.
“This semester I took off. I just took a leave of absence,” Biden told CNN. “But if we get to the White House. I mean, I think there would be no better message for teachers to say, ‘Hey, look who we are.’ We need to lift up the profession and celebrate teachers.”
Her techniques as a professor shine through on the campaign trail, walking around and trying to engage voters during speeches much as she does with her students in the classroom. Before an event in Manchester, Biden, wearing a jacket with the word “LOVE” emblazoned across the back, reassured a nervous student preparing to introduce her, showing her a power pose to draw strength.
“That was the first time she had spoken publicly, and she was frightened, she was scared. And I know that feeling, because that’s how I used to be. When you see me you think ‘Oh, she can get out there and speak,’ but I didn’t always feel that way. And so I knew what she was feeling,” said Biden, who has admitted the role of political spouse did not come naturally to her.
“That’s what I’ve learned from body language, and as a teacher, that’s a really important part of my profession,” she said. “That I can read my classroom and see who’s sort of all tight and into themselves, and who’s open to what I’m teaching. Body language is important.”