2020 Democrat Joe Biden on Sunday called a young female voter "a lying dog-faced pony soldier" during a question-and-answer session in New Hampshire.
The exchange began when a Mercer University student asked Biden about his electability following the Iowa caucus, where the Iowa Democratic Party's estimates for pledged delegates put Biden in fourth place behind Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
"You're arguably the candidate with the greatest advantage in this race," she told Biden as she stood up to ask a question.
"You've been the vice president, you weren't burdened down by the impeachment trials ... So how do you explain your performance in Iowa and why should the voters believe that you can win the national election?" she asked.
"It's a good question," Biden responded. "You ever been to a caucus?" Biden asked the young student, who nervously responded "yes."
"No you haven't," Biden said. "You're a lying dog-faced pony soldier," he told her, as the audience responded with laughter.
The 77-year-old went on to explain that he didn't feel the Iowa caucus was reflective of how well he would poll in other states.
Watch the exchange here:
After a New Hampshire voter asks @JoeBiden why they should trust he can turn his campaign around, he asks if she’s ever been to a caucus before; when she says yes, Biden snaps: "No you haven’t. You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier." pic.twitter.com/3uxOAu0Ues
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 9, 2020
Biden has used this strange euphamism in the past, and has claimed that it comes from an old John Wayne movie. However, several outlets, including Vanity Fair, could not pinpoint exactly which John Wayne film Biden was referencing.
Film critic Farran Smith Nehme wrote on Twitter that she suspected the line was a combination of the 1952 film starring Tyrone Powell called "Pony Soldier," and a phrase used to describe an infantry soldier in a way that that was "uniquely Uncle Joe."
Representatives for Biden's campaign did not immediately respond to Business Insider for comment on the origin or meaning of the phrase.
Still, the exchange left many people scratching their heads, not least the 21-year-old student named Madison Moore, who told The Washington Post that she was surprised by Biden's response.
"I read an article that he said [Iowa] was a punch to the gut, and I'm not one to just push on wounds. I'm not trying to humiliate anyone," she told The Washington Post. "He wasn't sitting in at the Senate trials for impeachment, so he had Iowa to himself. And then you've been a politician for like decades — how are you not way above all the other candidates?"
According to The Post, Moore later released a statement, saying that she had asked Biden a "fair question," and said it was "totally irrelevant whether I've been to a caucus or not."
"Joe Biden has been performing incredibly poorly in this race," Moore said in her statement. "His inability to answer a simple question from a nobody college student like me only exacerbates that reality."