HOLLYWOOD — Less than six weeks out from a high-stakes election, Vice President Joe Biden headlined a reception Friday that raised $500,000 for Florida Democrats jockeying to protect their majority in Washington and infiltrate GOP-controlled Tallahassee.
Five statewide offices are up for grabs on Nov. 2, giving Democrats a rare opportunity to go after the governor's office, Florida's Cabinet and a U.S. Senate seat all at once.
The state also hosts some of the most competitive races in Congress at a time when the Republicans are gunning for control and the Democrats' popularity is waning.
"I am absolutely confident that your ticket is going to surprise the living devil out of the entire nation," Biden told about 450 donors at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa.
On stage with Biden was Senate candidate Kendrick Meek. The Miami congressman trails Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist in the polls, and Biden sought to dispel any lingering questions about where the Democratic establishment stands.
"This is the easiest call that the president and I could make," Biden said of supporting Meek.
The Democratic nominee for governor, Alex Sink, did not attend the event. Last month, she kept her distance from Obama when he came to Florida for a fundraiser. Her Republican opponent, Rick Scott, has sought to tie her to Obama's economic stimulus plan and health care legislation.
"This is not a national race," Biden said, though his presence suggested otherwise. ''It's about Florida. It's about who is going to be best to guide this great state for the next four years, and she is absolutely, totally worthy of the job."
One by one, Biden praised the Democrats on the top of the ballot — Dan Gelber for attorney general, Loranne Ausley for chief financial officer, Scott Maddox for agriculture commissioner, congressional candidate Joe Garcia and U.S. Rep. Ron Klein. Biden said the administration had put back to work or saved more than 3 million workers, and he warned the Republicans would take the country in the wrong direction.
Republicans dismiss Obama's economic recovery plan as a failure. "Every time the President or Vice President set foot in Florida, we are reminded of their unfulfilled promises to tackle unemployment and the resulting debt from their failed stimulus experiment," said Rubio, in a statement.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the Senate as an independent, began airing a new ad Friday that questions the integrity of both of his opponents. Meek and Rubio dismissed the attack as a sign of desperation.