Biden: Voters “having a difficult time” electing first African American president

Oct 19, 2008 6:30am

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe Reports: As Election Day looms just over two weeks away, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said Saturday that with Republicans firing "vicious" and "dangerous" attacks at Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., voters are "having a difficult time" opting for the man who would become the nation’s first African American president.

"Undecided people are having a difficult time just culturally making the change, making the move for the first African American president in the history of the United States of America," the Democratic vice-presidential nominee said at a San Francisco fundraiser Saturday evening. "So we need to respond. We need to respond at the moment, immediately, not wait, not hang around, not assume any of this won’t stick."

"You see these vicious attacks on Barack’s character," Biden told supporters. "I mean, this is dangerous stuff these guys are doing. This stuff is on the edge. It’s on the edge. You know, there’s some folks out there in the community nationwide that aren’t as stable as others. It’s a very small minority. But having these rallies where people are showing up saying, you know, the things they’re saying – I don’t even want to repeat them — it’s not a healthy thing."

Biden cited automated GOP calls describing Obama as having "worked closely" with "domestic terrorist Bill Ayers", Virginia Republican Party chairman Jeff Frederick telling volunteers to tie Obama to Osama bin Laden, and speakers at Republican rallies referring to Barack Hussein Obama.

The six-term senator promised that Democrats would not get "banged around" like they were in 2004 when Republicans "did a hell of a good job" portraying Democratic nominee John Kerry as a "coward".

"I am so sick and tired of being, of us being banged around that they are going to have to beat me with a stick before we are going to break down," he said.

Biden hit the Bay Area for three fundraisers Saturday, helping rake in an estimated $2.2 million for the campaign. At his second event of the day, in Piedmont, Biden predicted that the ticket will experience a drop in polls this week.

"Mark my words, you’re going to see these polls drop this week," Biden forecasted. "We got a bump. We’re going to be in good shape. You’re going to see them drop. There’s nothing automatic about this at all."

In the state where former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, an African American, lost the 1982 gubernatorial race after exit polls showed him leading by a wide margin, Biden attempted to assuage concerns that Sen. Barack Obama would suffer a similar fate by noting that Democrats had "the most incredible field organization in the history of American politics".

"It costs tens of millions of dollars to do this," noted Biden. "And that’s our secret weapon. That is our equalizer to when anybody talks about the Bradley effect. This is the ultimate equalizer."

Still, Biden cautioned that Obama has a tough task ahead of him in southern states such as Virginia and North Carolina, reminding supporters that Harold Ford Jr. was leading his 2006 Senate race in Tennessee before ultimately falling short.

"We’re ahead in Virginia, but the idea that we’d have a lead like they’re saying we have — we haven’t won that state in over 40 years," Biden said. "We’re leading in that state with an African-American of incredible capacity. We’re leading in North Carolina. But you also saw how we were ahead in Tennessee with a brilliant young senator last time out who was an African-American."

But Biden boasted that Obama has the capacity to withstand GOP attacks and win the White House.

"Barack Obama communicates an absolute sense and certainty that is the most typical American instinct that there is," Biden said. "That we do not have to accept circumstances as we find them. That it is totally, thoroughly within our capacity to change our circumstance. That’s why he touched those people helping feed us tonight. That’s why he touched all those white and black folks around the country. The African American population in my state and in South Carolina, and the white population in the state of Iowa. Because he means what he says. It’s not about black or white. It’s not about – it is about all being Americans."

The Delaware lawmaker noted how far the country has come to now be on the brink of possibly electing an African American president.

"I got started in the civil rights movement as a young kid in a state that had been segregated by law with the eighth largest black population in America, as a percent of population," Biden said. "And I never thought, but I prayed I’d live to see the day, when — and I never thought I could be part of it – a part of seeing to it that we for the first and significant, fundamentally significant way, put a lot of that past behind us and began to unite the nation."

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