Vice President Biden Hits Campaign Trail to Protect Obama Agenda

Biden focuses fundraising efforts on vulnerable Democratic House members.

Oct. 7, 2009— -- Last month Vice President Joe Biden presented a dire scenario if vulnerable House Democrats were to lose their bids for re-election next November.

Biden said in stark terms that if Democrats were to lose 35 House seats they currently hold in traditionally Republican districts, it would mean doomsday for President Obama's agenda.

"If they take them back, this the end of the road for what Barack and I are trying to do," the vice president said at a fundraiser for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in Greenville, Del.

The vice president said Republicans are pinning their political strategy on flipping these seats.

Republicans need to pick up 40 seats next November to take back control of the House. There are 49 seats currently held by Democrats in districts that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won in last year's presidential election.

To prevent that doomsday scenario, Biden has hit the campaign trail, raising money for freshman Democratic members who party officials deem the most vulnerable, the "frontline" members.

"For a lot of freshmen and other members in competitive districts, there is obviously a value to having the vice president come and do an event," said Biden spokesman Jay Carney. "Given how full his schedule is with policy issues and foreign travel, there is only so much he can do. But he is eager to help where he can."

That value has translated into cash for Democrats. Biden has held events for 20 members of Congress and brought in over $1 million this year.

Party officials say that Biden's outreach to these vulnerable members gives boosts their campaign war chest and gives them more media exposure.

"Anytime you have the president or the vice president at an event, it's something that more people will be interested in," said one Democratic official.

Biden Deployed to Familiar Areas

Biden emphasized last month how critical these House seats are and said they are the Republicans "one shot" at breaking the Obama Administration's agenda. But if Democrats can hold on to those seats, "the dam is going to break," he said, and a new era of bipartisanship will begin.

"All the hidden Republicans that don't have the courage to vote the way they want to vote because of pressure from the party … it will break the dam and you will see bipartisanship," Biden said.

After six Senate races, two runs for the White House and scoring a spot on the Obama presidential ticket, Biden is familiar with the campaign trail, but now he's working for other Democratic candidates.

Today Biden will deliver remarks at an event in New Jersey and appear with Gov. Jon Corzine, who is locked in a tight race for his re-election. Later the vice president will raise campaign cash outside Washington, D.C., for Rep. Larry Kissell, a North Carolina democrat.

Biden already has campaigned for Corzine and Creigh Deeds, the gubernatorial candidate in Virginia. With those races coming down to the wire, an administration official said it made sense for the vice president to give a repeat performance.

Last year, Biden's foreign policy and Senate experience were often highlighted as key qualifications he brought to the Obama ticket. But Democratic officials also note that his ability to tap into his working-class roots from Scranton, Pa., and come across as a "regular Joe" served him well in key areas in the Northeast.

So it's no surprise that the campaign route Biden has charted in recent months looks strikingly similar to his campaign map after he was named to the Obama ticket last August. In recent weeks, Biden has held events in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia and New York City. He heads to western Pennsylvania and Ohio later this month.

Biden Goes Where He Can Be Most Helpful

Party officials believe that Biden carries appeal across many constituencies in the Democratic party, most especially to white working class voters, seniors and unions.

Administration officials said the decisions about where the vice president goes and who he campaigns for are based on where they believe he can be most helpful.

"If there is a place in the country where a Democrat has a seat, or where a Democrat has demonstrated he can win, and the vice president can help them -- he will go," an official said.

The pace of Biden's campaign travel a year out from the midterm elections is similar to that of his predecessor Dick Cheney, who was frequently deployed to reach out to conservative voters and stump for conservative candidates.

Cameras are not allowed into fundraisers Biden attends, but some reporters are permitted to hear the vice president's remarks. At these events, Biden sometimes goes off script, like the "end of the road" comments at the fundraiser for Rep. Giffords.

At a fundraiser last month in Virginia, Biden praised the three freshman House members he was stumping for as "damn competent" and "smart" -- unlike some other Democratic candidates he has campaigned for over the years, who he deemed "turkeys."

An administration official said that Biden's candor is one of his greatest attributes and assets.

Democratic officials except the vice president will continue this pace of events through the rest of the year so long as there are requests for him to make appearances.

Biden will attend an event with his friend Sen. Arlen Specter. D-Pa., in western Pennsylvania on Oct. 19, his second event with Specter this month, and a breakfast fundraiser for Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Ohio, at the end of October.