September 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm
SOUTH FORT MYERS — Vice President Joe Biden slammed his Republican opponents during a rally in Fort Myers on Saturday, saying the party has shifted drastically to the right and would be unrecognizable to an earlier generation of supporters.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party. This is not even Mitt Romney’s father’s Republican Party,” Biden said. “I don’t recognize the country they’re talking about. The American people are so much better, they’re so much stronger, they take so much more responsibility than these guys are giving them credit for.”
Biden was in Fort Myers to wrap up a two-day campaign swing through Florida. The vice president spent much of his 30-plus minute speech at the Wa-Ke-Hatchee Park Recreation Center talking about the middle class, seniors and the deficit.
More than 2,000 people attended the rally. This was Biden’s second public appearance in Fort Myers. He was in the area in October 2008 — days before the November presidential election — for a similar event at Alico Arena in Estero.
At Saturday’s event, Biden said the president was on the job for about a week when economic advisers warned that the country was facing a trillion-dollar deficit. That deficit, Biden said, was due to decisions made by the prior administration and Republicans in Congress.
“They talk about the Great Recession and they acknowledge it like it fell from the sky,” he said. “They put two wars on the credit card. They voted for new entitlement programs without paying one penny for it.”
Biden said Republicans need to take responsibility for the role they’ve played in the growing deficit, instead of voting against proposals put forth by the Obama administration.
“These guys vote against everything,” he said.
The Romney campaign quickly shot back Saturday in a statement, saying the national debt has grown under the Obama administration and that Obama’s spending plan is “riddled with accounting gimmicks and tax hikes, rather than policies that will get our long-term debt under control.”
A campaign spokeswoman also said Romney would cut spending and “put our nation on track toward a balanced budget.”
But Biden said the Romney plan would hurt Americans, especially the middle class and those seniors on Medicare and Social Security. He also said Romney’s decision to pick Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate gave Americans a “clear definition of all those vague assertions” Romney made during the primary.
“The fact of the matter is, you know as well as I do, this country is facing the starkest choice, the starkest choice for president that we have faced in at least my generation,” Biden said.
One major difference between the two campaigns is their plans for Medicare.
Since the president took office, Biden said, seniors have “more benefits than before” and are saving more money on expenses like prescriptions. The president also has strengthened Medicare reform and has earned the support of the American Medical Association and the AARP, Biden said.
A Romney administration, on the other hand, would turn Medicare into what Biden called “voucher care” and would mean more out-of-pocket costs for seniors.
That comment led to boos and jeers from the audience, something Biden quickly tried to stop.
“I don’t need your boos,” he said. “I need your votes and your organization.”
Senior issues like Medicare and Social Security are especially important in Southwest Florida, which has a large retired — or nearly retired — community. The current administration’s position on those issues is what drew many people to Saturday’s event.
Tommy McIntyre was among those in the crowd who wanted to hear where the Obama administration stands on senior issues. The 74-year-old Fort Myers resident said one of the main reasons he attended the rally was to hear what Biden had to say about Medicare.
McIntyre said he was pleased with what the vice president had to say, and he and his wife plan to volunteer with the campaign because of it.
“It was great,” McIntyre said. “I told my wife, it was like going to a college pep rally before the homecoming game.”
McIntyre wasn’t the only supporter who got into the pep rally spirit. As members of the crowd waited for the vice president to take the stage, they danced to the sounds of an oldies band and cheered when supporters took to the stage to say why they supported the president. They chanted “four more years” as Biden took to the stage to a Bruce Springsteen tune, and huddled around that same stage trying to get a quick handshake as he exited.
It took Biden several minutes to leave the auditorium as he shook hands and took pictures with supporters who crowded around.
“I’ve got news for Gov. Romney, I’ve got news for Rep. Ryan: It’s never good to bet against the American people,” Biden said as he wrapped up his speech Saturday. “With your help, we’ll win Florida.”
– Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Naples Daily News