Biden Pitches For Obama In Ohio
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To the campaign trail now. And with Republicans still wrestling over a presidential nominee, the Obama campaign is framing its arguments for the fall. Vice President Joe Biden took the new message to a union hall in Toledo today. He gave the first in a series of re-election campaign speeches, then stopped by an auto factory to shake hands at the shift change.
NPR's Scott Horsley went with Biden to Ohio.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The speech had all the trappings of a general election campaign: rousing Springsteen music, waving blue placards, and chants for the incumbents of Four More Years.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING CROWD)
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Thank you.
HORSLEY: Vice President Biden told members of Toledo's UAW Local 12 there's no better example of the choice facing voters, than the way the two parties approached the auto rescue in 2009. Faced with the likely collapse of General Motors and Chrysler, just months after taking office, Biden says President Obama didn't flinch.
BIDEN: He knew that resurrecting the industry wasn't going to be popular. It was absolutely clear in every bit of polling data. And he knew he was taking a chance. But he believed. He wasn't going to give up on a million jobs and on the iconic industry America invented. At least he wasn't going to give it up without a real fight.
HORSLEY: The decision to prop up the two companies with taxpayer dollars remains controversial, even though GM and Chrysler are profitable again, selling cars and hiring workers. The leading Republican presidential candidates say the federal government should have left the companies alone. Biden defends the president's decision as the right one for American workers.
BIDEN: He made the tough call. And the verdict is in. President Obama was right and they were dead wrong.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HORSLEY: The auto industry has added more than 200,000 workers since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy. And auto-intensive states, like Ohio and Michigan, have seen some of the country's biggest job gains. Ohio's unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in January, more than half a point better than the national average.
Marcia Young says she owes her job on Toledo's Jeep assembly line to the government's willingness to step in. And she's not the only one.
MARCIA YOUNG: If it wouldn't have been for them saving us, Toledo would have been a ghost town. And it's not just us. It's all the companies that depend on us. The smaller companies that make parts for us. And right down to the little restaurants that we go to. And even my Avon lady - I wouldn't be able to buy Avon from her if I wasn't working. You know, it's just little things like that that's the ripple effect.
HORSLEY: Biden tried to spin the auto rescue into a larger story about the proper role for government in the economy. Middle class families were getting squeezed long before the Great Recession. And the Obama administration's strategy to address that includes greater access to health care, more help paying for college, and efforts to promote good-paying jobs in manufacturing. The average auto industry job in Ohio pays about $54,000.
Republican presidential hopefuls want a smaller role for government and lower taxes. Biden argues that's the wrong course.
BIDEN: If you give any one of these guys the keys to the White House, they will bankrupt the middle class again.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER AND APPALUSE)
BIDEN: Look, the president and I have a fundamental commitment to dealing the middle class back into the American economy that they've been dealt out of for so long. And ultimately, that's what this election is all about. It's a choice - a clear choice.
HORSLEY: It's no accident Biden is giving this first big campaign speech in Ohio - a perennial battleground. Four years ago, he and Mr. Obama won the state by five points. But they lost working class white voters by 10 points. And part of Biden's job is to limit further erosion in those numbers. With his blue-collar background and aw-shucks manner, Biden is sometimes a more effective union hall campaigner than the president himself.
Introduced this morning as the son of an auto dealer, Biden made it clear his dad merely managed the dealership, he didn't own it. He said his family proudly drives the Jeeps made here in Toledo. And they're in good company. Jeeps are selling fast these days, and Chrysler employees are working 60-hour weeks to keep up with demand.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, Toledo.
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