Former Vice President Joe Biden raised eyebrows on the campaign trail Sunday when he jokingly called a university student a “lying dog-faced pony soldier” after she asked him a question about his apparent fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
In video clips of the encounter at the campaign event in Hampton, New Hampshire, a woman identified by multiple news organizations as Madison Moore, 21, an economics student at Mercer University in Georgia, warned Biden her question was “going to be a little bit mean.”
“You’re arguably the candidate with the greatest advantage in this race. You’ve been the vice president; you weren’t burdened down by the impeachment trials. So, how do you explain the performance in Iowa, and why should voters believe that you can win the national election?” asked Moore.
“It’s a good question,” Biden said. “Have you ever been to a caucus?”
Moore indicated that she had.
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“No, you haven’t. You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier,” Biden said, drawing laughter from Moore and the audience. He went on to argue that even if the results out of Iowa had not been so “confusing,” he does not think that state’s caucuses give a good indication of how a candidate will perform in the general election because minority voters are underrepresented.
Biden, who last week called his finish in Iowa a “gut punch,” also conceded that the campaigns for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg were better organized than his in the Hawkeye State.
“It’s not a mean question,” Biden went on to say, according to The Washington Post. “It’s an honest question.”
It was not the first time Biden used the expression. In November 2018, Biden used the same expression at a rally for then-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. He explained there was a line “in a John Wayne movie where the Indian chief turns to John Wayne and says, ‘This is a lying dog-faced pony soldier.'”
“It’s from a John Wayne movie and he’s made it plenty of times before. Sorry to ruin the fun twitter!” tweeted Biden spokeswoman Remi Yamamoto.
According to Politico, Moore said afterward, “It was a little awkward being put on the spot.” She also said it was “a little hypocritical” for Biden to respond the way he did because he had earlier spoken out against name-calling.
“But he was right. I haven’t been to a caucus. I kind of caved in the moment,” she said, according to Politico. “So he’s right. He’s right there. He’s right about the black vote, too. It’s very important.”
She said she was “still very skeptical” about Biden’s chances of defeating President Donald Trump but “he did a good job answering.”
In a statement to the Post, Moore said, “I asked Joe Biden a fair question. His immediate response was to question whether I had ever attended a caucus. In my nervousness in the presence of the former Vice President, I nodded yes.”
Moore told the Post, “it is totally irrelevant whether I’ve been to a caucus or not.”
“Joe Biden has been performing incredibly poorly in this race. His inability to answer a simple question from a nobody college student like me only exacerbates that reality.”
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On the heels of his fourth-place finish in Iowa, Biden has been dropping in polling in New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s primary. His campaign hopes he will rebound with stronger showings in the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22 and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29.
Biden’s response to Moore was intended as humor, but he has been criticized for other harsh responses to voters on the campaign trail. In December, he called a man at an event in Iowa a “damn liar” when the man accused Biden of selling access to Ukraine. And at a New Hampshire campaign event later that month he called an insulting heckler “an idiot.”
Several of Biden’s critics mocked the former vice president’s use of the colorful remark.
“Weird and getting weirder,” tweeted former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
“Tonight’s #Oscar for craziest quote by a Presidential Candidate: Joe Biden calls a woman a ‘lying dog-faced pony soldier,'” tweeted Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas.
Others offered humorous responses: