Biden: Electing black president is transformative
Posted September 13, 2008 1:33 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2008 12:29 p.m. EDT
Charlotte, N.C. — Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden says electing a black person to the White House would be transformative.
Biden, campaigning in Charlotte, said Sunday that choosing a black candidate would be a "transformative event in American politics and internationally."
His running mate, Barack Obama, seeks to be the first black president in the United States. Biden said Obama's policies make his presidency even more transformative.
North Carolina hasn't voted for a Democrat in three decades but has a large black population galvanized by Obama's candidacy. Both Obama and Republican presidential candidate John McCain have been airing television ads in the state.
Biden said he and Obama are reaching out to North Carolina voters. He led a community rally at the Phillip Berry Academy of Technology Sunday evening.
“We’ve raised several millions dollars down here in North Carolina. We plan on competing here or we wouldn’t have opened up all those headquarters or put all those people down here,” Biden said.
Biden told the crowd, "We are in a deep hole – our economy, our health care system, our education system in terms of being able to get kids to college."
He said that voters should think about the last eight years when casting their vote this November.
“Four years of John McCain is going to be like the last eight years,” Biden said in an interview with WRAL's Ken Smith.
Before the rally, Biden spoke for about 20 minutes to a small group at the home of Crandall Bowles, the wife of University of North Carolina System President Erskine Bowles. The private fundraiser brought in about $150,000, campaign officials said.
Meanwhile, Republican running mate Sarah Palin has been soaking up the campaign spotlight with magazine covers and joint rallies with John McCain that draw thousands, while Biden has taken on a more traditional role of second fiddle to the man at the top of the ticket.
However, the campaign envisions a new role for its No. 2 in helping make the closing argument against McCain.
Biden's focus will be on McCain, not Palin, said campaign officials, calculating that the election will be determined on voters' feelings about Obama and McCain.
Biden is in a unique position to help convince voters that McCain is the wrong choice, they say, because their a relationship goes back even beyond their 22 years together in the Senate.
In the late 1970s, when Biden was a young senator and McCain was the Senate naval liaison, the two traveled the world on Foreign Relations Committee fact-finding trips. They became friends, as did their families.
Biden's argument will be that he knows McCain well enough to say that even though he is right on character, he is wrong on the issues, advisers said.
Biden was scheduled to give two major speeches framing the race before the presidential debates get under way, one on domestic policy Monday in Flat Rock, Mich., and another on national security Sept. 22 in Baltimore.
Biden's other responsibilities will include being the campaign's top fundraiser and helping validate Obama with communities that have been skeptical of his candidacy to varying degrees – Jewish voters, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's backers, union members and other middle-class voters. His travel is heavy on the industrial Midwest, with this week's itinerary including Saint Clair Shores, Mich., Media, Pa., and a two-day bus tour through Ohio.
He canceled plans to appear Saturday with Obama in New Hampshire due to Hurricane Ike, the campaign said.
The two men met privately Thursday night in New York, and a senior campaign official said Biden told Obama they must keep the focus on McCain and the economy and argue that McCain would be "dangerous" as president, given the volatility of the economy and world.
Part of Biden's appeal as a running mate is his comfort in debating rivals and tearing them down, something that is not always Obama's strong suit, although he has taken a more aggressive tone in the campaign's final weeks.
Some Democrats have privately complained that Biden has not been a more prominent attack dog. In a memo Friday, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe outlined a more aggressive campaign against McCain.
"Biden will be integral to that effort, both in pushing back on the lies that we'll continue to see from our opponents and in keeping the debate focused on delivering for everyday Americans," he said.
Biden spokesman David Wade said the Delaware senator will be "Mr. October."
"He's a closer," Wade said. "He's the vice presidential nominee you want slugging it out in the late innings when proven campaign skills, intestinal fortitude, expertise and experience matter most."
McCain campaign spokesman Ben Porritt said Biden was "a drag on the ticket, because he's a Washington insider with no record of bringing change."
During a press conference call Sunday, Rep. Virginia Foxx of the fifth Congressional district fielded questions from reporters about Biden’s visit to North Carolina.
Foxx said North Carolina is firmly in the Republican bracket. She pointed out that the state didn’t support former Senator John Edwards and she said she doesn’t expect people will vote for the Obama/Biden ticket because their values don’t match the values of most North Carolinians.
When asked about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Foxx said the Alaska governor has more executive branch experience than Obama and Biden. She also said that Palin and McCain are more compatible than Obama and Biden.
Foxx went onto to say that Obama picking Biden as a running mate was another indication of “good old boys” politics. She said Biden has been in the Senate since he was 29 and all he knows is Washington.