Joe Biden praises Charlie Crist as man of middle class

– Vice President Joe Biden, famous for a gregarious and freewheeling style that often veers away from sanitized political talking points, was on message Monday as he hit the campaign trail in South Florida: soaring rhetoric, no gaffes, and a big push for Charlie Crist.

“This is the single most important governor’s race in the United States of America,” Biden said, urging votes for the Democratic candidate for governor.

At Broward College, where 500 people attended a rally for Crist, Biden depicted the Democratic candidate for governor as a man of political courage.

“Charlie knows what is worth losing over,” Biden said. “He’s not going to lose. But he knows what is worth losing over and he’s always stood up. He’s always stood up and said what he believes, even at the risk it might cost him.”

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Biden and Crist hammered again and again – and again – on the importance of the middle class, describing their party and policies as good for the middle class while depicting Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott as catering only to the interests of the wealthy.

“I’m running for governor to fight for the middle class,” Crist said.

“These guys,” Biden said of Republicans, “don’t value the middle class.” The vice president’s advice: “Stand up and holler … ‘I’m tired of the middle class not getting a [fair] shake.'”

Biden said the middle class is “in trouble” and “getting clobbered.” Lest that be considered a confession of failure after six years of the Obama administration, the vice president rattled off statistics suggesting the economy has made vast improvements since he and President Barack Obama took office.

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After rallies at Century Village west of Boca Raton and Broward College in Coconut Creek, Biden’s final stop of the day was decidedly more upscale: a fundraiser for Crist at the Parkland home of Mike Moskowitz, a prominent Democratic Party money-raiser. The Crist campaign didn’t provide an estimate of how much was raised.

The vice president is the latest in a series of potential 2016 presidential candidates — Hillary Clinton, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — who have campaigned in Florida or helped Crist raise money since Labor Day. Next up: First Lady Michelle Obama, who comes to Florida later this week.

Biden’s wife, Jill, also campaigned for Crist on Monday, with stops scheduled in Tampa, at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, and in Miami.

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Charlie Crist, Rick Scott face off in first debate Anthony Man, Dan Sweeney It took just moments for Charlie Crist and Rick Scott to unsheathe their knives in an attempt to slice and dice each other in the first debate of the Florida governor’s race, an hourlong back and forth that showcased multiple policy differences. It took just moments for Charlie Crist and Rick Scott to unsheathe their knives in an attempt to slice and dice each other in the first debate of the Florida governor’s race, an hourlong back and forth that showcased multiple policy differences. ( Anthony Man, Dan Sweeney ) –>

The vice president didn’t ignore any political imperatives. At Century Village, home to many Jewish retirees, Biden included a couple of lines about Israel in his speech. “We cannot allow any daylight between the United States and Israel in terms of our interests,” he said.

At Broward College, where the audience included many young voters in the age group Crist hopes will turn out in bigger-than-usual numbers, Biden recalled his father’s embarrassment that he was unable to borrow money to help his son attend college.

He also told the West Boca voters that they “are the only reason why I’m standing here as vice president of the United States of America.” He delivered much the same speech in Broward County, but tweaked the message. “The truth of the matter is this is the county in the last presidential election that delivered a majority big enough to make sure we won Florida. And I expect you to do the same thing for Charlie Crist.”

Parts of Biden’s speech aimed directly at one of Scott’s biggest lines of attack against Crist: that the former Republican governor turned independent candidate for U.S. Senate turned Democratic candidate for governor is a flip-flopper who is motivated only by polls and political expediency.

“He’s a leader who knows most importantly where he stands,” Biden said, adding that Crist’s ending his decades-long affiliation with the Republican Party isn’t a reason to doubt him.

“Hell, he didn’t leave the Republican Party. It left him,” he said “This [Republican Party] is not the same breed of cat that’s been around for a long time. This is a whole different deal, folks.”

Biden ridiculed Scott on the issue of climate change.

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“We know there is a consensus in America on climate change. No state is in more jeopardy on climate change than yours. Yet you have a governor who said I’m not convinced. Not convinced? What does he need to be convinced? Miami underwater? What is he thinking?”

Biden said the avalanche of negative TV ads aimed at Crist are a cynical strategy by Scott and the Republicans. “They’re counting on folks staying home because they’re so demoralized,” he said. “They’re trying to convince them it doesn’t matter. Government doesn’t matter. So don’t show up. That’s they’re only hope.”

Speaking to reporters outside the Broward College rally, state Republican Chairwoman Leslie Dougher said the vice president was “largely misinformed” about Crist and what’s actually going on in Florida.

Scott is “pro-business, pro-family” and is a tax cutter. “Charlie did nothing to make it a prosperous state.” And Scott, in a statement, said Florida is prospering since Crist left office “because we have done the exact opposite of Washington. We threw out the Crist-Obama playbook of higher taxes, more debt and more spending.”

Two supporters of Libertarian Adrian Wyllie stood for several hours at the entrance to Century Village. “There’s not much of a choice between the two of them and [voters are] frustrated,” said Steve Beson of West Boca. “We want to be here so people can see there’s another option.”

A band of about a dozen protesters were on hand as the Biden motorcade arrived at Broward College. Ryan Walker, 21, of Wellington, a student at Palm Beach State College, was among them. “I don’t trust someone who has changed parties three times in a row.”

Staff writers Adam Sacasa and Lisa J. Huriash contributed to this report.

aman@sunsentinel.com, 954-356-4550

Copyright © 2014, Sun Sentinel

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