LAKE BUENA VISTA — Vice President Joe Biden fired up Florida Democrats Friday night, decrying Republicans obstructing the president's economic agenda and ridiculing their foreign policy agenda.
"Name me one major initiative on taxes, on jobs, on Wall Street, on foreclosures, on promoting innovation, on infrastructure that is any different than in the eight years that they controlled the presidency. I cannot find one,'' Biden told more than 1,000 party activists gathered at Disney World for the state party's 2011 convention.
Drawing a rousing reception, Biden scoffed at Republican presidential candidates suggesting American troops remain longer in Iraq and noted that Texas Gov. Rick Perry once suggested he'd consider sending troops into Mexico to deal with the drug war.
"Folks, I know this election is not going to be about foreign policy,'' said Biden. "But let me remind you, there's a minimum threshold any man or woman has to cross on national security and foreign policy for the American people to think you're remotely eligible to be president. And these guys have a long way to go."
The three-day convention at Disney's Contemporary Resort, part state party fundraiser (about $600,000 raised Friday night) and part pep rally, kicks off what stands to be a tough campaign year for Democrats hoping to deliver Florida's 29 electoral votes to Obama, to re-elect Sen. Bill Nelson and to rise from virtual irrelevance in Tallahassee.
"There are those who have been talking about an energy gap. I'm here to tell you that the energy gap is gone. Florida is ready. We can't wait until 2012," said state Democratic chairman Rod Smith, who devoted part of the evening to honoring giants of the party's past: former Gov. Reubin Askew, who made a rare appearance at a partisan event; former Attorney General Janet Reno; and former state party chairman Charlie Whitehead.
As America's biggest battleground state and a must-win for Republicans hoping to recapture the White House, Florida is sure to see loads of attention from both parties over the next year.
The state GOP welcomed Biden to Disney World by declaring the Democrats were turning "the happiest place on Earth into the Land of Sour Grapes."
"In one year and just a few days, we will give the American people a president who believes that the people — not omnipotent government — are not soft or lacking imagination," said Florida Republican Chairman Lenny Curry. "The American people are ready. All we need is a true leader."
Biden, 68, drew boos when he mentioned Gov. Rick Scott, noting that he cut education funding, embraced an Arizona-style immigration law, rejected $2.4 billion in stimulus funding for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando, and restricted voting and voter registration.
The national GOP wants to take a similar approach for the whole country, the vice president said.
Sounding incredulous, Biden said that after Moammar Gadhafi's death in Libya, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio thanked French and British troops for the leadership and barely acknowledged the role of American forces in the air.
"This is not your father's Republican Party," Biden said, explaining that the White House was done trying to break through "obstructionist" Republican leaders in Congress.
"We've got to try to go above their heads," Biden said. "We've got to go to the people. We can't wait. The American people can't wait."
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a member of congress from south Florida, sounded a similar note, suggesting Republicans are more focused on the election than passing jobs legislation proposed by Obama.
"I'm not saying that Republicans don't have a jobs agenda," she said.
"It's just that they're only focused on one job — Barack Obama's."
Adam Smith can be reached at email@example.com.