The News Journal - Biden Back Home for Democrats' Dinner
Vice presidential candidate rallies Delaware party faithful at event
By CRIS BARRISH
On the first night Jack Markell and John Carney appeared together in public since Markell won their Democratic gubernatorial primary one month ago, the pair were upstaged by Delaware's biggest political luminary -- Joe Biden.
Biden, Delaware's first vice presidential candidate, took time away from his marathon national campaign Monday night to headline the state Democrats' annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner, an event that has become one of his rituals during 36 years as a U.S. senator.
Biden spent most of Monday in New Hampshire but flew home to spend a half-hour urging folks he called "my family" to work tirelessly for state Democrats in Delaware's elections and for his own ticket in the remaining three weeks before Election Day.
Today, Biden heads to the hotly contested state of Ohio, where he'll spend two days stumping for himself and running mate Barack Obama.
While Biden reminded Delaware Democrats he's on the ballot for a seventh Senate term and they could "vote twice for the same guy," the main thrust of his speech was on winning the White House with Obama. (If Biden wins both seats, Delaware's governor will pick an interim senator to fill Biden's seat until the 2010 election.)
Underscoring a recent theme, Biden said Republican opponents John McCain and Sarah Palin "want to attack us. We want to attack problems. They want to attack us."
Only Obama and he truly understand the plight of the middle class struggling to keep jobs, pay their mortgages, fill their gas tanks and send their children to college, Biden told the crowd of more than 1,000 loyalists at the Dover Downs hotel and casino complex.
Repeating words he's been using on the campaign trail, Biden said McCain, the U.S. senator from Arizona, can't call himself a maverick when he's actually been a "sidekick" to President Bush and his failed economic policies over the last eight years.
Voters can't trust McCain to tackle America's economic problems, he said, because a month ago, when the stock market started tanking, the Republican nominee said the economy's fundamentals were strong, only to say later that same day the country was in crisis.
"John McCain didn't see the light," Biden said. "What John McCain saw was the presidency slipping from his grasp."
Biden appeared energized in front of his hometown crowd, calling out to a handful of fellow Democrats, and said he has the same passion about the nation's promise as he did in 1972 when he was a "29-year-old kid" running for the Senate.
He urged tax credits for small businesses who hire new employees and a $1,000 energy rebate check for each taxpayer, similar to what residents of Gov. Palin's Alaska receive annually.
"Oil companies made $600 billion since 2000," Biden said. "What's good enough for Alaskans ought to be good enough for the lower 48."
Markell praises Carney
Before the dinner, a buoyant atmosphere filled the ballroom and lobby outside the ornate hotel. Patrons wore blue "JOE" buttons, carried Barack Obama placards, and spoke with glee about the party's strength in Delaware -- as well as the prospects of having one of their own as vice president of the United States.
Tanya Washington, deputy chief of staff for Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker, said she is thrilled to see Biden on the presidential ticket.
"The Democratic party has as its core a social consciousness and Biden taps into that, along with Barack Obama. They touch on issues important with me, like education and the economy. I can't wait to see us take the White House," Washington said.
"It's our grandest event," Joseph B. Farley Sr., former chairman of the state Democratic party, said of Monday's event: "You can feel the energy and excitement and it's unreal. It's probably the greatest night of all in the history of our state."
Farley said he's most delighted his party has taken over Delaware. Statewide, Democrats today outnumber Republicans by a 3-2 ratio -- and a total of 90,000 voters.
"It's one of the most significant transformations of my life, this transformation of Delaware from a Republican state to what is now clearly a Democratic state," Farley said.
Farley and other Democrats said next month's election is a great chance for the party to win the governor's office and control the state Senate and House.
Democrats, who have a 13-8 majority in the Senate, are expected to keep their edge. In the House, where Republicans hold a 22-19 majority, all seats are up for re-election.
"Then Bob Gilligan could be the Speaker of the House," Lt. Gov. Carney said of the House minority leader, predicting his party would take control for the first time since 1984.
Before Biden spoke, others praised Carney and Markell for the clean campaign both ran and how they immediately united to help the Democrats win the governorship over Republican Bill Lee. Polls have shown Markell has a strong lead.
Markell, who has been state treasurer since 2001, called Carney "a man of character, integrity and class" and promised everyone at the dinner he would work to make Delaware a first-rate state.
"I will make one commitment to you," Markell said. "Should I be successful, I'll do the very best I can every day to make sure that as Delaware comes out of this economic storm, we will be in a position to create jobs, provide affordable health care and make sure our kids get the best education in the world."