Biden: Obama Cannot Win Without Pennsylvania

Published: Aug. 28, 2008 at 5:11 PM EDT
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DENVER (AP) - Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden told Pennsylvania delegates Thursday that running mate Barack Obama can't win the White House without the Keystone State.

"This is not hyperbole: We cannot win without Pennsylvania," Biden said at a breakfast.

Obama hopes Biden's blue-collar appeal will let him avoid a repeat of his Pennsylvania primary loss.

Biden, who spent part of his youth in Scranton, Pa., often uses a just-folks speaking style that appeals to white, working-class voters - a group that Obama has struggled to persuade. During his contentious primary campaigns against one-time rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama consistently failed to win over that voting bloc, which he must connect with if he wants to win the White House.

Polling in Pennsylvania shows the race between Obama and McCain close. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted last week showed Obama with a 7 percentage point lead over McCain, but neither reached more than 50 percent. Obama's 49 percent support is likely to increase after a week of nonstop coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Biden's popularity in Pennsylvania also will not hurt. He has worked with Pennsylvania political leaders throughout his 26-year career in the Senate, so much so that he's often referred to as Pennsylvania's Third Senator.

It's not lost on Obama's campaign staff, who are confounded as to why the millions invested in ads and staff in battleground states hasn't yet resulted in a lead in polls. Past Democratic presidential candidates have laid the groundwork in Pennsylvania, which John Kerry carried in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000.

"You're going to have all the resources this campaign has available. That's the good news," Biden said. "The bad news: you're going to have a whole helluva lot of me because I'm coming home."

A McCain spokesman said Biden's efforts to connect with Pennsylvania are doomed to fail.

"Joe Biden's effort to create a record out of thin air for Barack Obama will not be enough to make up for Barack Obama's lack of experience, lack of judgment and plans to raise taxes on the hard working families of Pennsylvania," Ben Porritt said.

Biden briefly quoted from his campaign speech that launched his political career three decades ago.

"I was a 29-year-old kid running for the United States Senate in 1972. There was somewhere between six and 10 busloads of people from Scranton who just spontaneously got on a bus and came down. ... Literally, there were hundreds of thousands of people."

Biden, whose tendency to exaggerate has hounded his political career, has become a target for Republicans. The Republican National Committee has started a clock counting minutes since Biden's last gaffe.

Biden also used the breakfast appearance to offer up another joke about his running mate's age, 47.

"Barack Obama could've made that speech were he alive in 1972," Biden said to laughter and applause.

Biden, 65, brings a policy heft to Obama's relative inexperience. It's also a point of humor for Biden: "By the way, if I hear one more time that he was 11 years old when I went to the Senate, I'm going to smack somebody."

After the speech, Biden met privately with representatives of the country of Georgia, an Eurasian nation that has clashed with Russian forces in recent weeks. The group included vice prime minister Giorgi Baramidize and Nino Burjanadze, the president of the Foundation for Democracy and Development, an advocacy group.