With the finish line of the Iowa caucuses in sight, former Vice President Joe Biden told a Dubuque audience Sunday that their decision matters for the rest of the country.

“Every four years, Democracy starts here in Iowa because you only let a certain amount of us out of the gate,” Biden said to a crowd of about 400 people at Robert and Ruth Kehl Center at Clarke University. “It really matters what you do.”

Most of the recent polls have shown Biden locked in a tight battle with three or four other presidential candidates among Democrats likely to turn out at today’s caucuses.

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Sunday, he stressed the importance of the gatherings that will take place around the state.

“I think it’s fair to say you’ve never voted in a more important caucus in your life because of who is the sitting president of the United States of America, Donald Trump,” said Biden.

He said November’s presidential election is about more than policies.

“The character of the nation is on the ballot,” he said. “The character of our leaders is on the ballot.”

Polly Sebastian, of LeClaire, Iowa, sat in the front row at the event, directly behind the podium. She said she still was gathering information ahead of the big decision she would make tonight.

“I want to find out more about Biden, so I can make a final decision,” she said. “We went to (see U.S. Sen.) Amy Klobuchar yesterday, and for me, it’s between these two.”

Meanwhile, Carl Coleman, of Dubuque, already had decided to caucus for Biden.

“This is my second time to hear him,” Coleman said. “He has experience, he’s pragmatic, and he’s willing to work both sides of the aisle.”

Iowa Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque, and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack spoke in support of Biden at the event.

“Joe Biden is uniquely qualified to begin the process of bringing this country together,” Vilsack said.

Speaking to the Telegraph Herald following the event, Biden said there is a reason why Iowa makes the first choice among the presidential candidates.

“The rest of the country doesn’t understand why, but it’s because you all take it more seriously than the way it just affects your state,” he said. “You realize, whoever you let out, is likely to increase the chances of them being on the ballot for president. That’s how Iowans look at it.”

Biden said he has heard concerns about health care, prescription drug prices and education as he crisscrossed the state.

“But the thing I hear the most is — and it sounds corny — but that these Midwestern American values, people think they’re being decimated,” he said. “I think the character piece is a gigantic piece for Iowans. The way that the president talks and the way he belittles people, it really bothers them. I may be speaking to more Democrats than Republicans, but even among the Republicans who show up, these are the things I hear.”