Political News

Biden speech draws big crowd at Meredith College

Posted October 23, 2008 12:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 23, 2008 11:29 p.m. EDT

— Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday urged North Carolina residents to move past the "politics of division and diversion" he said is practiced by his Republican rivals and to move together to move the country forward.

Biden took a bus tour of the state, speaking at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in the morning, Wake Forest University in the afternoon and Meredith College in the evening.

After criticizing the economy policies of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Biden called for Americans to come together for the nation's future.

"North and South, East and West, it's time for America to get up together to bring about the change we need," he said to growing applause. "Get up. Get up."

Biden said the two primary goals for himself and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama could be printed on bumper stickers: Restore the nation's middle class and reclaim global respect for America.

The first can be accomplished through targeted tax cuts, while ending the war in Iraq would help achieve the second, he said.

“The way we restore our respect around the world is to end the Iraq war now,” Biden told an estimated 7,000 people at Meredith's McIver Amphitheater.

With less than two weeks until Election Day, 50 Obama campaign offices are open statewide and more than 350 campaign staffers are canvassing the state.

Biden's second visit since September was designed to build on that foundation and encourage supporters to get out the vote.

“Our goal is to have one of the biggest voter turnouts in North Carolina history and it's up to you,” he said.

Supporters with whom WRAL News spoke with are taking Biden's advice and running with it.

“I’ve been canvassing, phone banking, everything I know to do to get people involved,” Obama supporter Angela Hollaway said.

“Drive your neighbor, drive your elderly neighbor, drive your grandmother to the polls, help her vote,” Obama supporter Taegen Sullivan said.

Campaigning in NASCAR country, Biden employed car racing terminology for bumping to describe the contentious final days of the campaign. He told supporters in Charlotte that he's worried about how the Republicans have been acting as the two campaigns have been "trading a little paint" recently.

"What worries me most is the McCain campaign seems to have gotten a little loose," Biden said. "John's getting a little loose. He doesn't have much of a steady hand these days. Now's the time we most need a steady hand."

Deriding McCain's effort to dissociate himself from President Bush and the current economic crisis, Biden accused the U.S. senator from Arizona of "quacking like George Bush."

"It's not simple, fundamental economics, it's Bush-McCain economics that's gotten us into this hole," he said.

After botching McCain's name during his Charlotte appearance, Biden joked he no longer knew his longtime Senate colleague.

"John McClain, excuse me, John McCain. John McCain – I don't recognize him anymore," Biden said to laughter from several hundred supporters in attendance. John McClain is a character in the "Die Hard" adventure-movie series.

Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant said Biden was being loose with his rhetorical flourishes and offered a different NASCAR analogy: "If Obama wins, he will raise taxes and our economy will go from a yellow to red flag."

Biden called Republican robocalls "scurrilous" and said ads portraying Obama as an extremist hurt the American people.

"It is corrosive to American society," he said. "It's awfully hard to build anything with that kind of corrosion."

The criticism appeared to refer to a mailer distributed by North Carolina's Republican Party last week. The ad tries to link Obama to 1960s radical William Ayers with pictures of Ayers, including his mug shot, and a description of Ayers' violent anti-Vietnam war activities from decades ago. The mailer declares the two are friends and says Obama is "not who you think he is."

Obama has condemned Ayers' radical activities, which occurred when Obama was a child. He met Ayers a quarter-century later when Ayers was an education professor at the University of Illinois and a Chicago neighbor. They worked on the boards of two nonprofit charitable groups from the mid-1990s to 2002, and Ayers held a meet-the-candidate event for Obama when he first ran for the Illinois senate, but the two are not close.

Biden's message for unity appealed to Abdul Malik from Charlotte Islamic Academy.

"We thought it was important for our young brothers and sisters to come out and know (that) being an American Muslim ... does not deprive you of pursuing your dreams, goals and aspirations," Malik said.

North Carolina hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976, but recent polls show Obama and McCain to be in a dead heat. Biden said he isn't taking anything for granted.

"I'm optimistic, but not confident," he said. "We've seen elections this close before, and a lot can happen in the last 13 days."