ST. PETERSBURG -- Vice President Joe Biden quietly slipped into Tampa Bay for a fundraiser Wednesday, where he cheered for the spirited Republican p" />

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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Biden in St. Petersburg roots for the GOP primary to keep going and going



ST. PETERSBURG -- Vice President Joe Biden quietly slipped into Tampa Bay for a fundraiser Wednesday, where he cheered for the spirited Republican presidential primary to continue for as long as possible.

"God love them, as my mother would say. I hope they have another 20 debates," Biden told more than 200 people gathered at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in downtown St. Petersburg.

"I’ve been doing this awhile, and some of you have," the vice president said. "I have never seen a time in my lifetime when Republicans haven’t tried to hide the ball, to use a sports metaphor - when they said they were ‘compassionate conservatives. We care about health care. We must preserve Medicare,’ etc. They’re not hiding the ball any more at all, guys. God bless them, they’re saying exactly what they believe. This is going to be the starkest choice the American public is going to make in a long, long time."

With 29 electoral votes Florida is the biggest battleground in the election, and Biden will likely be a regular visitor in the coming months. A product of Scranton, Penn. who can connect with working class voters and has strong ties to Jewish activists, the former Delaware senator has been assigned Florida as one of the states for him to target, along with Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

"Parachuting into St. Petersburg to use Florida as a campaign ATM is not a jobs plan nor will it lower the price of gas," said Republican National Committee spokesman Matt Connelly. "It’s clear that in a second term, Vice President Biden would only advocate to continue the failed policies we’ve seen for the last three years. Floridians deserve better and know that we need to change direction in Washington, D.C. by electing a Republican to the White House in 2012. "

It may be one of the few times where a candidate walked into a fundraiser wearing one tie, and left wearing another. In the $1,000 photo line, one fellow admired Biden's red tie. The veep returned the compliment about the man's purple tie and suggested they trade. They did.

Tickets for the fundraiser event ranged from $100 to $2,500, and Biden reminded the crowd how grim the economic picture looked when Obama took office. The country had shed 740,000 jobs in the month before they took office, he noted, major banks were on the brink of shuttering and automobile companies were talking about liquidating.

"We’ve come a long way since then. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re getting there,’’ he said, suggesting Republicans are trying to win by talking down the country and the economy. "I’ve been there for eight presidents. ... I give you my word I’m more optimistic about America’s chances today than when I was a kid."

Democrats have long complained that they can’t distill their campaign theme to a simple bumper sticker phrase. Biden offered one for 2012: "Osama Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 8:21pm]


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