In town to raise money for Mark Dayton's gubernatorial campaign, the vice president spoke loud and clear.
Vice President Joe Biden rallied more than 1,000 of the DFL Party faithful in St. Paul Tuesday morning, imploring them to back Mark Dayton to the hilt during the final four weeks of the governor's race.
Recalling the passion that fueled the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008, Biden told students, union members and party activists gathered at Macalester College: "Do for us what you did two years ago."
The speech hit a red-meat tone that has long made Biden a legend among the party faithful.
"[Dayton] knows how to balance a budget. ... He did that when he was a state auditor," Biden said. "Mark's opponents are drinking the same Kool-Aid that national Republican leadership is drinking." Biden was here to stump for Dayton, but never strayed far from the weak economy and looming midterm elections. The vice president blamed the Bush administration's "unfettered policies" for the economic collapse.
"Look, folks, we've seen this movie before and we know how it ends," he said. "Minnesota can't afford to go through it again. America can't afford to go through it again."
Dayton introduced Biden, recalling his days in the Senate and praising the administration's economic programs. He said Democrats in Washington would have "partners working here in Minnesota" if he is elected.
The crowd was made up primarily of Macalester students, many of whom said they had volunteered for the Obama campaign but were not following the current governor's race closely. "I actually haven't heard that much about [Dayton]," said Macalester senior Alexa Wilcox as she walked into the Leonard Center Fieldhouse.
Ray Faricy, a veteran St. Paul political activist, had known Dayton long enough to be wearing one of his campaign T-shirts from the 1990s. He said Dayton's "case has been made" and Biden's speech was about more than the gubernatorial campaign.
"His emphasis, I think, was to make sure the Democratic Party feels good about itself and that those people who usually support the Democratic Party stay with it," Faricy said.
'Where are the jobs?'
State Republicans staged a "prebuttal" at a nearby restaurant, where GOP chairman Tony Sutton said a win by Dayton or Independence Party candidate Tom Horner would mean more government and fewer jobs.
"No matter how much happy talk Minnesotans hear from Biden about the wonders of the 'stimulus,' the fact is the Obama/Biden agenda of bigger government, bigger taxes and bigger deficits just isn't working," Sutton said. "Now Biden is trying to convince Minnesotans that our state should vote for a failed senator like Mark Dayton who promises Washington-style spending and higher taxes at the state level."
Across the street from the rally, several demonstrators stood along the sidewalk with signs. Among them: "Where are the jobs Joe?" and "We want more jobs -- not more debt."
In the speeches leading to the main event, prominent DFLers did their best to demonize GOP nominee Tom Emmer and lash him to the Republican Party's most extreme positions.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., denounced what he called the party's "lies and demagoguery."
Former DFL state Rep. Matt Entenza, who ran against Dayton for the Democratic nomination, said Emmer "is cut from the same Tea Party cloth as Michele Bachmann."
Filling the war chest
Biden and former Vice President Walter Mondale also attended a sold-out private lunch fundraiser for Dayton with about 300 donors, who gave from $150 to $2,000.
"It's a tremendous honor for me to be standing between two vice presidents," Dayton said. "I am just an unemployed guy looking for a job."
Biden's criticisms of the GOP were a little more pointed at the fundraiser: "If I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them," he said. Turning to reporters, he said, "To the press, that's a figure of speech."
Despite predictions that Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives, Biden said Democrats will keep their majority.
"To paraphrase the great philosopher Samuel Clemens: Reports of the death of the Democratic Party have been greatly exaggerated."
Baird Helgeson • 651-222-1288 Bob Von Sternberg • 612-673-7184 Eric Roper • 612-673-1732