Biden in Iowa: 'Put me in, coach'
© Scott Wong

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Vice President Biden fired up die-hard Democrats in a minor league ballpark along the Mississippi River here Monday, urging voters to promote Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE (D) to the Senate and keep Rep. David Loebsack (D) in the House.

But his visit to the home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses also stoked more speculation about whether he’ll launch another bid for the White House in 2016.

Peering out onto the baseball diamond at Modern Woodmen Park, Biden told about 150 supporters that he couldn’t help but think, “Put me in, coach. I’m ready to play.”

Biden swung by the Quad Cities eight days before the midterm elections, predicting the Senate would remain in Democratic hands. But he said the stakes in the 2014 race were even higher than the two previous presidential races in which voters elected President Obama with Biden as his running mate.

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“If we don’t stop the march of the Tea Party now, those majority Republicans in the House and Senate will never have the courage to stand up and vote the right way,” Biden said.

On the other hand, he insisted, if Braley were to defeat GOP challenger Joni Ernst, “it will break the back of the hard right, and you’re gonna see reasonable people vote reasonably again.”

Biden also called out Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLiz Cheney faces a big decision on her future NBC's Kelly O'Donnell tears up over video celebrating 25 years at network Boehner: 'I wouldn't bother' with primary challenge to Trump if I were Kasich MORE (R-Ohio), who will stump with Loebsack’s GOP challenger, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, in the Quad Cities later Monday.

“John Boehner is my friend. I hope he talks about what the Republicans are for,” Biden said, before going on to rip GOP budgets for making billions in cuts to education, including to after-school, Head Start and pre-K programs.  

Ernst wants to eliminate the Education Department, Biden said.

Braley, who has served in the House since 2007, said his opponent, a state senator, was beholden to the billionaire donor Charles and David Koch and wants to privatize Social Security and get rid of Medicare.

“That’s a retirement plan for Wall Street, not a retirement plan for Iowa,” he said.

An NBC News/Marist poll released over the weekend showed Ernst leading Braley 49 percent to 46 percent, just within the 3.5 percent margin of error.

The race is one of the closest Senate contests in the nation, and it will almost certainly help determine which party will control the upper chamber next year.

Before Biden, Braley and Loebsack arrived at the home of the Quad Cities River Bandits, the crowd chanted, “Go Bruce Go!” and “We’re with Joe.”

Braley said Biden, a two-time presidential candidate, has been to Iowa so many times, "he doesn't need GPS, he doesn't need a roadmap. He just needs to know where he's going, and he's going to get there because Iowans know him, they love him and they trust him."

But, for all that, several Democratic supporters at the rally said Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren policy ideas show signs of paying off Biden at campaign kickoff event: I don't have to be 'angry' to win Top Dem: Trump helps GOP erase enthusiasm gap; Ohio a big problem MORE remained their favored choice in 2016, with Biden a distant second.

“I just think it’s long overdue for the United States to have a female president, but I also respect her and the work that she’s done so far for the nation,” said Davenport resident Nancy Toohill, 57, a retired federal worker who brought her 11-year-old granddaughter, Dallas, to the rally.

“I like Biden. We’re excited to see him,” Toohill added. “If Hillary was not running I would definitely support Joe BidenJoe Robinette BidenBiden calls for unity, jabs at Trump in campaign launch Here are the potential candidates still eyeing 2020 bids Warren policy ideas show signs of paying off MORE, but if it’s between the two of them, I would support Hillary.”

Kathy Harvey, 67, who formerly owned a tavern and grill in Davenport, said she is backing Clinton in 2016, if she can pick the right running mate. Either Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro or his twin brother Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), would do, she said.

But Harvey thought Biden was unelectable.

“I think he’s great but I don’t think he’ll get elected. Too many people make fun of him,” she said. “He won’t get elected so why not get somebody who can get elected?” 

This story was updated at 3:55 p.m.