Friday, October 19, 2012

Joe Biden in Sun City Center: "This isn't your father's Republican Party"

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Bill Nelson & Joe Biden spoke on Friday
  • Bill Nelson & Joe Biden spoke on Friday
An interesting thing happened toward the end of Vice President Joe Biden's nearly 40-minute speech at a community center in Sun City Center on Friday. He stopped ripping into the policies being promoted by the Romney-Ryan ticket, and began paying tribute to members of the U.S. military, 68,000 of whom are currently serving in Afghanistan.

He launched into that part of his speech after commenting on Mitt Romney's infamous "47 percent" remarks referring to the percentage of U.S. citizens who don't pay taxes — a group which includes the military.

Switching from a near shout to a loud whisper, Biden mentioned the 6,500 U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 11 years, calling them "fallen angels." (A Washington Post count has the number of troops killed overseas at 6,591).

"50,010 wounded. Maybe of them, close to 25,000 with wounds that will require extensive medical care for the rest of their lives.....they will need our help the rest of their natural lives," he said solemnly, bringing the approximately 1,160 people jammed into the Sun City Center Community Association Community Hall to near silence.

He then resumed blasting the Republican ticket, saying he had never seen two candidates in his life more negative and with less faith in the American people than Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. "I don't recognize the country they're talking about," he said, again going back to the 47 percent comments.

The veep began speaking around 12:30 p.m., 45 minutes later than scheduled. He began by doing what President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been doing at every campaign stop — urging the crowd to vote early. (Although early voting doesn't begin until October 27, registered voters can currently go to their local supervisor of elections office and request an absentee ballot.)

Biden mocked the Romney-Ryan ticket on women's issues, like equal pay for equal work and a woman's right to choose. "It's clear that they don't believe in protecting a woman's equal access to health care," he said.

Biden's Florida visit comes a week after his notorious debate with GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a debate that thrilled Democrats in the wake of President Obama's lackluster performance a week before, the single biggest event of this election cycle.

Having served in the Senate for four decades, the 69-year-old Biden lamented the conservative turn that colors the current GOP, saying, "This is not your father's Republican Party."

"These aren't the Republicans you grew up with," he told the senior-dominated crowd. He said the GOP is now dedicated to two things: 1) massive tax cuts for the wealthy, and 2) significant spending cuts, especially to entitlement programs.

Biden mocked Mitt Romney's recent retreat from pushing a $5 trillion tax cut, and repeated Newt Gingrich's line from Meet The Press in 2011 that the Paul Ryan-sponsored budget was "right-wing social engineering."

And he elicited laughs and cheers when he talked about Ryan's vow that his plans for changing Medicare into a voucher system wouldn't "eviscerate" the program. Biden said the comment was akin to Mitt Romney standing in an unemployment line turning and telling someone in line, "I didn't outsource your job, I off-shored it."

Democrats don't often campaign in Sun City Center, as it is considered a Republican stronghold, and in fact motorists who took the turnoff on South Pebble Beach Drive to get to the site of the rally encountered plenty of local residents with Romney-Ryan signs.

Georgia Timberlake, a resident of the area for the past decade and a Democrat for most of her life, derided the site, calling it the "rich bitch part of town" in an interview with CL.

But not everyone in the audience was pro-Obama/Biden.

Linda McPheron voted for Obama in '08 but remains undecided this time around. She agreed that the part of Sun City Center hosting the rally was definitely "Romney country," and said she was impressed by both candidates. Her biggest issue was with Congress, whom she blamed for the partisan gridlock in Washington. And she said she didn't see that changing regardless of who is elected next month.

Giving a longer than expected warm-up speech was Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, up for re-election next month against Republican Connie Mack. Nelson made the most of his more than 15-minute speech, telling the crowd that he and the Democratic party were saving Medicare by reducing payments to insurance companies and hospitals, not hurting the program as Republicans have been charging.

Nelson has done little retail campaigning this election season in the Tampa Bay area, but instead relied on repeated television ads portraying Mack in an unflattering light. Judging by most polls, he maintains a slight lead over the Republican challenger.

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