ST. PETERSBURG — Vice President Joe Biden slipped into the bay area 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.
Biden, who can connect with working class voters and has strong ties to Jewish activists, has been assigned Florida as one of the states to target in 2012. The others are 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," Republican National Committee spokesman Matt Connelly said.
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 man admired Biden's red tie. The VP 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 told the crowd how grim the economy looked when Obama took office. The country had shed 740,000 jobs the month before, he said, major banks were on the brink of closing and automobile companies talked 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 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 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."