Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning for Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray in Vancouver on Tuesday, told a crowd of 670 that the Republican Party is now the “anti-business” party, unwilling to invest in the education, research and infrastructure projects that will revive the middle class and allow the United States to compete in the global economy of the 21st century.
His 45-minute speech at Pearson Air Museum was as much a defense of the first two years of the Obama administration as a campaign testimonial for Murray, his longtime Senate colleague.
The stakes in the midterm election could not be higher, Biden said. “The backbone, the sinew of the country runs through the middle class,” he said. “How does the middle class retain its position if we’re not creating jobs?”
More heavy hitters
In shirtsleeves and a fighting mode, the vice president said it’s Republican politicians who are “anti-business,” with their opposition to financial reform and their support for extending the Bush administration tax cuts to even the wealthiest Americans.
With control of the U.S. Senate at stake and new polls indicating the contest between Murray and Republican Dino Rossi is too close to call 14 days before the election, Democrats are pulling out all the stops this week, with a visit by former President Bill Clinton to Everett on Monday and a trip by President Obama to stump for the three-term senator in Seattle on Thursday. First Lady Michelle Obama will campaign for Murray in Washington next Monday.
Denny Heck, the Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District seat, introduced Murray and made a pitch for his own campaign against Republican state Rep. Jaime Herrera, vowing that he will use such “dirty tactics” as “making the campaign be about issues” and mobilizing volunteers to help get out the vote.
“The Republicans want to make this election about one thing: fear,” Heck said. Voters need to be reminded that it was Republicans who turned a federal surplus into a yawning deficit during the eight years of George W. Bush’s administration, he said.
Biden campaigned for Heck in Seattle on Oct. 8, but committed a gaffe when he told the audience, assembled miles from the 3rd Congressional District, that voting for Heck would be in their best interest. He did not mention Heck’s campaign in his remarks Tuesday.
Skamania County Commissioner Paul Pearce, a Republican, praised Murray in his own remarks for her successful effort to keep federal money flowing to timber-dependent rural Washington counties over the past decade.
Murray introduced Biden, noting that when she asked the vice president to campaign for her in Vancouver, she told him, “This is a region that is hurt but hopeful . . . I told him Southwest Washington is an economic engine and we are revving it up again.”
Delivering a version of her stump speech, she said she has fought for Washington residents during her Senate career. In contrast, she said, her Republican opponent is “running to take something from you” by supporting tax cuts for the wealthy but opposing Wall Street reform.
Rossi, she said, stands for “the three Rs: repeal, rewind, retreat.”
Biden warmed up the crowd with an anecdote about being in a meeting with Obama when a note arrived for the president saying, “Sen. Murray needs to see you.”
“I told him, ‘Just say yes, Barack,’” Biden quipped. “He looked at me and said, ‘You’re right.’”
Biden took out after the Republican Party, saying it lacks a vision for the nation’s economic future and appears indifferent to the anguish of American families.
Republicans were asleep at the wheel, he said, when millions of Americans lost their home equity, their retirement savings and their jobs during the Wall Street meltdown.
“To paraphrase, reports of the demise of the Democratic Party are premature,” he said.
Rick Hardy of Camas, who described himself as a former “McCain Republican,” was attending his first-ever political rally with his wife Cheryl. He said the record of the George W. Bush administration prompted him to change parties. ”They showed us in eight years what they can do and we can’t let that happen again,” Hardy said.
The GOP has changed, he said. “You cannot elect a moderate Republican anymore because they won’t stay moderate.”