SPARKS — Democrat Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump's handling of U.S. relations with Iran before he kicked off a two-day swing through the early caucus state of Nevada with a speech planned Friday night in a blue-collar neighborhood in Sparks.
Biden, who was President Barack Obama's vice president, historically has enjoyed strong support from labor unions and working-class voters in northern Nevada's Washoe County, including Reno and neighboring Sparks.
He told more than 50 supporters at a fundraiser in Los Angeles earlier Friday that he's worried Trump could accidentally start a war with Iran.
“We're in a much more dangerous position than we were even a month ago," Biden said.
Trump ordered new retaliatory economic sanctions Friday on Iran, even as his administration faced persistent questions over its drone strike on an Iranian general that helped ignite the latest crisis with the Islamic Republic. The new sanctions were in immediate response to Iran's firing of a barrage of missiles at American bases in neighboring Iraq this week after to the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The larger U.S. goal is to force Iran to negotiate a new agreement on limiting its nuclear program. In 2018, Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement signed under Obama that traded curbs on the program for the easing of sanctions.
Biden, who also has served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said withdrawal from that agreement was a big mistake.
“Taking their nuclear weapon off the table was a gigantic, gigantic help in the region,” Biden said at the fundraiser. Before that, he said, the U.S. “had the world working with us."
“When we walked away from that agreement, the rest of the world walked away from us. We became a pariah," he said.
Biden planned a speech at 6 p.m. Friday in Sparks High School, where then-Vice President Dick Cheney made an appearance on the November night before George W. Bush's re-election victory over Democrat John Kerry in 2004.
It was the last time Republicans carried the state or Washoe County, which had been staunchly GOP for four decades.
Four years later, Obama became the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to win in Washoe County, part of the state's most rural congressional district where no Democrat has ever been elected to the U.S. House in its history dating to 1982.
Nevada was one of the only swing states President Donald Trump failed to win in 2016, and Democrats are increasingly confident the Silver State is turning blue. They now hold both U.S. Senate seats and three of four House seats.
Bill Clinton won Nevada in 1992 and 1996, as did the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012 after Bush's victories in 2000 and 2004.
Nevada's Feb. 22 caucuses follow only the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucuses in the presidential pecking order.
Biden, 77, has made six visits to the Las Vegas area — a longtime Democratic stronghold — since the campaign began. He has been less visible in the north than two of his key rivals, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Friday's appearance is his third in northern Nevada and first in Sparks after stops in Reno in October and rural Elko in November.
As Biden is scheduled to take the stage in Sparks at the school built in 1951, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is expected to make a virtual appearance before rural Nevada Democrats. Yang, following in the steps of other White House contenders, will hold an online video conference at 5 p.m.
On Saturday morning in Las Vegas, candidates Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg are scheduled to hold town halls with the powerful casino workers’ Culinary Union. Buttigieg plans to hold a rally later, and Biden will hold a community event in north Las Vegas with the Latino and immigrant advocacy group Mi Familia Vota.