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Biden talks about Mark Sanford, Trump and Democratic opponents ahead of SC stump meet

Joe Biden says he occasionally hears stories from frustrated GOP voters who say they will back his 2020 presidential bid — and not Trump’s.

“I think there are a lot of Republicans who are really disgruntled with the party. Really disgruntled,” the former vice president and 2020 Democratic candidate for president told The State Monday in Marion. “Whether they decide to choose me or not I don’t know.”

Asked for a specific story of who he talked to and how that conversation went, Biden said, “Not that I want to tell you.”

Suffice it to say those voters will move away from President Donald Trump, or choose not to vote or vote for the eventual nominee, added Biden.

Biden sat down with The State at Woodhaven restaurant in Marion before he headed to the Galivants Ferry Stump later, a Pee Dee tradition that dates back to the late 1800s, when Wade Hampton stopped at Galivants Ferry during his S.C. gubernatorial run.

The 2020 presidential election has put a large spotlight on the traditional stump meet compared to years past. Biden was among four Democratic presidential hopefuls to headline the event with Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Indiana, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

He spoke about his 2020 strategy, whether he appeals to Republican voters and if college students are excited about his bid.

“I have not seen any reason to believe that people between the ages of 18 and 25 aren’t as enthusiastic about me as they are about anybody (else),” Biden said.

“I like this ... mythical notion you all have, coming out of the 2016 campaign that the young have moved so far, when the fact of the matter is that they are the most informed, best educated, least prejudiced and most productive group of people who have ever graduated from school.”

The event capped a day of campaigning in the Palmetto State with powerful Democrats in the state.

Earlier in the day, Biden attended a fundraiser on Sullivan’s Island, speaking for 25 minutes at the home of Charles Rittenberg and his wife, Bené — parents to Amanda Loveday, Biden backer and a former executive director of the S.C. Democratic Party.

The fundraiser was co-hosted by longtime former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who did not attend because he was in Florida to talk about hurricane preparedness, according to the pool report of the event. Biden said he was glad Riley was there, but wished Trump was doing the same.

Speaking at the fundraiser, Biden recalled someone walking up to him at an event two days earlier and handing him a box of Sharpie markers when the topic of hurricanes came up, telling him, “You may need these” — a joke after Trump extended Hurricane Dorian’s projected path into Alabama by encircling the state on a map.

Talking to The State, Biden said Trump’s “whole tactic” is to keep people from understanding the important issues.

If Trump doesn’t know the answer to something, he “carries a Sharpie to change the outcome,” Biden told The State.

Avoid getting ‘in the mosh pit’ with Trump

If voted the Democratic presidential nominee, Biden said he aims to amplify the conversation over policy ideas, particularly on the debate stage where Trump found immense success during his 2016 presidential run against then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I’ve had presidential debates before and I’ve ... not done badly at them,” Biden said with a wide smile, an obvious self-inflicted jab over his most recent appearance on the debate stage in Texas where some of his opponents took turns criticizing his gaffes.

“It’s not about being aggressive as much as it (is about) being straightforward and not (letting) the president misrepresent the facts, call him out on the facts,” he said. “What you don’t want to do, and what I don’t want to do is get down in the mosh pit with this man.”

That is where Trump is most comfortable, Biden said.

“I’m going to make sure that if I’m the nominee that I stay who I am and remain authentic, and I tell people exactly what I think,” he said.

On his biggest Democratic threat

Is it enough to excite voters, particularly those undecided or who sided with potentially a different Democratic hopeful?

“So far they seem pretty excited if you look at the polling data,” he said.

Asked which Democratic hopeful is his strongest competitor, he declined to say.

“I think they are all competitive,” he said. “I really mean that. Every one of them is capable of being a better president than President Trump is.”

Yes, we asked about Mark Sanford

Biden wasn’t the only candidate campaigning across the state Monday.

Former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford took his GOP bid against Trump to the Upstate, Columbia, then Charleston. Sanford later dropped by the Galivants Ferry Stump and shook hands with attendees.

Biden said the pair don’t have a lot of history in Washington when Biden was a senator from Delaware. But he has respect for Sanford, Biden added, counting the former representative from Mount Pleasant among the “90%” that Biden said he got along with.

“He’s concluded what we’ve all concluded,” Biden said. “That Donald Trump is not a great president.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.