Joe Biden comes to FGCU
Biden's stop in Naples
NAPLES — Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden came to Southwest Florida Wednesday asking people whether they could believe in change.
For about 5,000 people who came to see him speak, the answer was simple.
Yes we can.
Biden held a rally at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Alico Arena to discuss the economic plan that he and running mate Barack Obama hope to put into place if elected Nov. 4.
Biden’s stop in Southwest Florida comes two days after his opponent, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin, spoke to a crowd of about 9,000 in Germain Arena.
With less than a month until Election Day, Florida is still considered a battleground state, with its 27 electoral votes up for grabs. Obama and Biden have seen an increase in the polls, but Republican nominee John McCain and Palin are also campaigning heavily in Florida.
His visit to the community comes as Southwest Florida faces home foreclosures and unemployment rates that are outpacing the national average.
Biden had planned to make an unannounced stop at a residence in Naples before his rally, perhaps to illustrate the area’s foreclosure problem.
The campaign alerted some members of the media to the stop Tuesday evening, but due to time constraints, the event was canceled at the last minute.
However, Biden did keep his engagement at the Naples Bay Resort prior to the rally. About 300 supporters paid either $1,000 or $10,000 to attend one of two separate fund-raisers.
Before Biden took the stage at Alico Arena, Naples resident Sarah Titus said she expected Biden to expound on Obama’s ideas for the economy.
“I expect Biden to talk about what we will experience in the next few years. The housing crisis in Florida is the worst,” she said. “We need some reassurance.”
Biden told the crowd that the economic crisis was the “final verdict on the failed economic policies of John McCain and (President) George W. Bush.” He said Americans have lost $2 trillion in their 401Ks as a result of those failed policies, and spoke about Florida and Lee County leading the nation in home foreclosures.
“We need a fundamental change in our philosophy,” he said. “We need to strengthen the middle class because, when the middle class is hurting, everybody hurts.”
Biden said if elected, he and the Obama administration would focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs.” That focus, he said, included helping working Americans keep their health insurance, cutting taxes for the middle class and investing in energy alternatives that would create green jobs.
“John McCain has a tax plan. ... Under his tax plan, the average Fortune 500 CEO would get a $700,000 tax cut,” he said as the crowd booed. “I think $700,000 per CEO would go a long way to help out middle class people.”
He spoke about his desire to see the U.S. stop spending $10 billion a month on the war in Iraq and implement an exit strategy.
“To quote the elder Bush, ‘Read my lips.’ We will end this war,” he said to cheers and applause.
Biden told the crowd the Obama campaign’s plan to give students $4,000 toward college if they would serve their country under a national service plan.
The senator from Delaware also had strong words for the McCain/Palin campaign. He said the campaign is becoming increasingly negative and said their “accusations” were an attempt to take voters’ minds off the issues.
“We are looking for answers. ....These debates are not about me or Gov. Palin or John McCain. This election is about you and the challenges you face,” he said. “A recent analysis showed that 100 percent of John McCain’s ads attack Barack Obama. I guess when you vote with President Bush 90 percent of the time, your best hope is to attack your opponent 100 percent of the time.”
Immokalee resident Cynthia Allen, who volunteers for the Obama campaign in Immokalee, said she was very excited to cast her vote for the Obama/Biden ticket.
“At 51, I am living history because I am getting the opportunity to see the first African American run for office,” she said. “And Senator Biden will be there by his side to bring about the change we need.”
After listening to Biden speak, Allen – who admitted she didn’t know much about the senator before the rally – was almost speechless.
“I agree with him 100 percent,” she said. “I am voting for those guys. ... I am so happy, I don’t know what to do.” Biden ended his half-hour speech by telling the audience that a promise made is a promise kept.
“We will keep our promise to you to change this nation in a fundamental way,” he said, to cheers and a standing ovation as Stevie Wonder came over the loud speaker.
“Signed, sealed, delivered.”