Joe Biden

Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden begins a two-day trip in Iowa Tuesday, his first time back to the first-in-the-nation caucus state since May 1. | Dustin Chambers/Getty Images

OTTUMWA, Iowa — Joe Biden landed in Iowa on Tuesday and immediately took aim at Donald Trump, hitting him on everything from his policies on China to his Charlottesville response, even as the president was scheduled to hold a dueling event across the state.

Biden, whom Trump earlier in the day slammed as “mentally weak,” accused the president of leading the nation astray by straining longtime ties with foreign allies, embracing dictators, giving cushy tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, all at the expense of the middle and working classes.

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In his first of three scheduled events, Biden didn’t directly address the slights from Trump but repeatedly criticized the president, referring to him as an “existential threat.”

“He’s a threat to our core values,” Biden said.

“[Trump] says make America great again? Let’s make America America again,” Biden said to emphatic applause inside an auditorium in this working class river town.

Biden also apologized to Iowans for missing a major party event on Sunday, saying it was only due to a family conflict and vowed the state would see more of him.

“This is a marathon. At the end of the day if you can’t cross the line in Iowa, you’re not winning the marathon,” the former vice president said.

Biden plans to deliver a lengthy speech later today, in the third of three events he has planned.

“There’s a lot of ways Trump fails the basic standard to be president — but one of them is this: Donald, it’s not about you. It’s about America,” Biden said, according to prepared remarks released by the campaign.

“Did he do anything to signal that he’s prepared to walk away from the thugs he’s embraced on the world stage — from Putin to Kim Jong Un? No. He did none of that. Instead, he gets up in the middle of the night to attack Bette Midler. He attacks the mayor of London. He attacks the American Speaker of the House. It was a stunning display of childishness for the whole world to see.”

Biden’s two-day trip in Iowa is his first time back to the first-in-the-nation caucus state since May 1. His absence from the state since his presidential launch hasn’t gone unnoticed here, particularly over the weekend when Biden missed a major Democratic Party event attended by 19 other presidential candidates.

Trump is also traveling through Iowa today, delivering remarks in Council Bluffs before speaking at an Iowa Republican Party dinner in West Des Moines.

At least a portion of Biden’s scheduled remarks appeared designed to stem the criticism he has faced over comments he made about China when he visited Iowa in early May. Then, Biden seemed to dismiss Beijing by saying, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man! … They’re not competition for us.”

Trump smacked Biden at the time, calling the comments “very dumb” and some of Biden’s 2020 Democratic primary competitors piled on, too.

On Tuesday, Biden is underscoring the challenges the United States faces in its ongoing relationship with China and laid out four points to address it.

“We are in a competition with China. We need to get tough with China. They are a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat,” Biden said, according to the prepared remarks. “And every single step that Donald Trump is taking is only exacerbating the challenge.”

Iowa farmers have been among the hardest hit by an ongoing tariff war with China, experiencing profit losses as both demand for and the value of their products have dropped during the ongoing trade dispute.

“How many sleepless nights do you think Trump has had over what he’s doing to America’s farmers?” Biden said. “Here’s the answer: Just as many as he had when he stiffed the construction workers and electricians and plumbers who built his hotels and casinos. Zero.”

Biden is also calling on allies to present a “united front” against “China’s abusive behavior.”

“We need to rally more than half the world’s economy to hold China to account for their cheating. And get a chorus of voices speaking out on China’s repression.”

In his speech, Biden hit Trump over climate change, pointing to flooding in parts of Iowa. He’ll also jab Trump over the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement under the Obama administration.

“Remember when Trump’s Justice Department decided to argue that the Affordable Care Act in its entirety is unconstitutional just a few months ago?” Biden’s remarks say. “Now he’s got his tail between his legs and barely mentions it — doesn’t even tweet about it — because he knows the American people will give him a thrashing in 2020 just like they gave the Republicans in 2018 for trying to get rid of it.”

Biden, who’s led every national poll since he entered the race in late April, is far from the only candidate in a sprawling Democratic field to attack Trump on such issues. But of the 2020 roster of candidates, Biden has demonstrated an uncanny knack for getting under the president’s skin, drawing direct insults and nicknames. Trump even went on an anti-Biden Twitter tear, expressing anger over the International Association of Firefighters’ endorsement of Biden.