“If he’d take it, yes,” Mr. Biden responded.
The campaigning resumed after Christmas, even if many Iowans were more focused on college football than politics.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., spent Saturday afternoon meeting voters in the Des Moines area and fielding questions that, at times, homed in on two of his biggest vulnerabilities as a candidate — doubts about whether his high-minded words about fixing the nation’s problems can produce tangible results, and his ability to attract more African-American support.
In a middle school gymnasium in Marshalltown, about an hour northeast of Des Moines, one man told Mr. Buttigieg that he needed more than just “vision statements and goals.” The mayor responded by noting there was a reason “I’m being a little careful on what I promise,” which he then followed up with a thinly veiled critique of plans by opponents like Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont to offer free college tuition and “Medicare for all” health care plans.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “We’re offering big, bold, ambitious ideas.” But candidates, he added, can have ideas that are both “big and practical.”
Later, at a meeting in Des Moines that included several people affiliated with the N.A.A.C.P., a young black man pointedly asked Mr. Buttigieg, “How can we trust you to be a champion on racial justice?” After the mayor walked the young man through what he said was some “misinformation” about his record with African-Americans, the questioner still was not satisfied and pressed him. Why should you be president, he asked, “if you didn’t do a good job in South Bend?”
“Most people in South Bend believe I did a good job,” Mr. Buttigieg responded, including, he added, people of color. “And I would invite you to check the data on that.”
Ms. Warren also returned to Iowa after a holiday break, with two events in the Des Moines area that focused on her core message of economic inequality and structural changes. In Urbandale, Ms. Warren pitched herself as a pragmatic progressive who could work across the aisle, citing a hearing aid bill that was signed into law by Mr. Trump in 2017.
“This is about making markets work,” she said, separating herself from Mr. Sanders — who calls himself a democratic socialist and is more openly critical of capitalist markets.
Astead W. Herndon contributed reporting from Des Moines, Jeremy W. Peters from Marshalltown, Iowa, and Emily Cochrane from Washington.
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