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'To Preserve Our Constitution' Biden Calls For Trump Impeachment

In New Hampshire Wednesday, former Vice President Joe Biden for the first time called for President Trump's impeachment. Many voters, however, wanted to hear more about other issues.

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Transcript:

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Even before Biden arrived in New Hampshire, voters here may have already heard him attacking Trump. Here is Biden in a new ad released last week intended to run in early states.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

JOE BIDEN: Now, fearful about his reelection, he's becoming more unhinged...

KURTZLEBEN: At his first campaign stop Wednesday, Biden made his sharpest attack yet, calling for the first time for Trump's impeachment. He went on to assail the president for almost his entire speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: He's shooting holes in the Constitution, and we cannot let him get away with it.

KURTZLEBEN: Biden's remarks made headlines, and his attacks earned him plenty of cheers. But impeachment wasn't necessarily what his voters came to hear about. Speaking before Biden's speech, retired nurse Pam Dupee (ph) said Biden is her top choice in the Democratic field and that she was excited to hear him speak - but not about impeachment.

PAM DUPEE: The facts are the facts and - so no, I don't really care to hear about that today.

KURTZLEBEN: Retired teacher Debbie Day (ph) said Biden is one of her top candidates, along with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Day said she has long supported impeachment, but she doesn't mind if candidates aren't as fervent about it as she is.

DEBBIE DAY: I know it's easy for me to - as a regular citizen, to say something like that, little bit more serious for a presidential candidate to speak that way, and that they have to weigh their words a lot more than I have to worry about mine.

KURTZLEBEN: It was clear on Wednesday that voters had plenty of other topics they wanted to hear about, as when a group of climate activists interrupted Biden's second speech in Manchester.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: It's a country that's going to help you, and provide you...

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZLEBEN: Speaking to NPR, different voters listed climate change, immigration, abortion, college affordability and health care as their top priorities. No one volunteered impeachment. But then impeachment plays into a broader story that Biden tells of Trump as a grave threat to American values. That made an impression on New Hampshire voter John Harder (ph), who is still deciding which candidate to back.

JOHN HARDER: I was impressed with Joe's talk today, just basically the moral - bringing back the moral character to this country. And I think he's got the ability to be able to beat Trump, and that's a big thing in his campaign.

KURTZLEBEN: Again and again, conversations with 2020 voters come back to electability. And Biden's electability argument dovetails with his message that Trump is dangerous. Trump, for his part, has continued to accuse Biden, without evidence, of acting on behalf of his son's business interests as vice president. Biden, on Wednesday, addressed Trump's accusations, calling them lies, distortions and smears. And then he folded them into his electability argument, explaining why he thinks Trump is launching these attacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: Trump did it because, like every bully I've ever known or every bully we've read about in history, he's basically a coward. He's afraid.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: He's afraid. He's afraid about just how badly I will beat him next November.

(APPLAUSE)

KURTZLEBEN: But then that's 13 months away. And the Democratic primary race is getting tighter. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren recently caught up to Biden in nationwide primary polls. Next week, they and 10 other candidates will meet on stage for the next Democratic debate. Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News, Manchester, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.