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Vice president’s visit leaves area Dems fired up

This news story was published on September 19, 2012.
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Christinia Crippes, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa –

They admit to being partisans, but area Democrats still were fired up by Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at the Port of Burlington on Monday afternoon.

“It was really great to be part of a three-city stop in Iowa at this point in the election,” Des Moines County Democratic Chairman John Riessen said Tuesday. The election in seven weeks away, with early voting set to begin Sept. 27.

Biden focused on contrasting the Democratic ticket with that of their Republican counterparts during his speech Monday. He focused on health care for seniors, the economy and the rescue of the automobile industry.

Biden continued his Iowa tour Tuesday in Ottumwa and Grinnell. At the latter event, he focused on student loan rates and other issues important to the many college students in attendance.

Asked whether Biden’s speech focused too much on the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, Riessen said he wasn’t bothered by it. Of course, he’s not one of those independent voters who are undecided on who to vote for.

“I would agree that there was a lot of focus on the negative aspects of the Romney campaign, but there are a lot of negative aspects,” Riessen said. “In fact, as I left the Biden event, even really negative aspects of the Romney campaign, and his comments were hitting the press last night and today.”

He was referring to comments Romney made during a private fundraiser earlier this year that surfaced Monday afternoon when liberal nonprofit magazine Mother Jones posted videos online, where the GOP nominee appeared to say that nearly half of Americans “believe they are victims.”

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney appears to say. “There are 47 percent who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Riessen said Biden, on the other hand, did a lot of good numbers during his speech. Riessen pointed to the jobs the President Barack Obama and Biden administration plan to create in the United States and how Romney’s plans would ship jobs overseas.

Stacey Wachter, a Democratic activist in Burlington, had another figure in mind, when she thought of the high points from Biden’s speech.

She said her favorite part of Biden’s 28-minute speech was when he criticized Romney’s definition of middle class as people making “$200,000 to $250,000 or less.”

Biden said that the Republican proposals to further reduce taxes begins to make sense if their proposals start from the assumption that amount is middle income. About 4.5 percent of Americans earn $200,000 or more per year, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Wachter said if the figure represents middle income, she would like to sign up to become a part of the middle class.

The figures, however, do match Obama’s proposal to extend for one year the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts for people making $250,000 or less, but let them expire for the “wealthiest” Americans.

Wachter said the Republicans are “out of touch,” but Democrats understand issues on poverty and related to the middle class.

Like Riessen, she did not mind the tone of Biden’s speech. She said the Romney-Ryan ticket have been misrepresenting the Obama-Biden policies, which requires a response.

“We need to defend our position,” Wachter said.

Republicans, however, were less impressed. Rose Kendall, a Burlington tea party member who rallied for the Romney-Ryan ticket Monday afternoon in advance of Biden’s appearance, said she was pleased with her group’s turnout of about 20 people.

And she was too busy with errands and volunteering at the Des Moines County Republican headquarters to pay attention to what Biden had to say in Tuesday’s newspaper.

The Republican National Committee also sent out a press release in between Biden’s campaign stops in Iowa Tuesday, criticizing the Democratic ticket on how its policies have failed the middle class, including a 0.2 percent increase in unemployment in Iowa in the past month and a decreased median income in the state since 2008.

A spokesman for the RNC in Iowa could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

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