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Biden Takes Obama's Hard Sell to Voters

The Vice-president has been the designated traveling salesman for the President as he tries to drum up support for Democratic candidates

(Bloomberg) — He's flown 330,000 miles since taking office, the equivalent of circling the globe 13 times, much of it campaigning for Democrats and telling anxious voters that the $814 billion stimulus measure is working. Vice President Joe Biden knows it's a hard sell. "Less bad is never good enough," Biden said in an interview on board Air Force Two on Oct. 8, the same day that Labor Department figures showed the jobless rate held steady at 9.6 percent in September, the last yardstick before voters in the Nov. 2 elections determine which party controls Congress. "Voters want to be told the truth," Biden said on the way to Madison, Wisconsin, jacketless, kneeling against the back of an airplane seat and holding gold-trimmed aviator sunglasses. "They want to know, 'Tell me, man, do I have a shot?'" he said, his enthusiasm undeterred by a cold. With unemployment topping 9.5 percent for 14 straight months, Biden is having difficulty trumpeting the 3.3 million jobs created or saved by the White House's economic stimulus. "It's just really hard to convince people that when there weren't, up until the first of the year, when there weren't net new jobs it's awful hard to say, 'It's working,'" he said at the end of a three-state campaign swing Oct. 7-8 for four Democratic candidates in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Washington. "It's counterintuitive."

Middle-Class Emissary

As President Barack Obama's emissary to middle-class voters, Biden has visited 27 cities in 17 states, stumping for 24 Democratic candidates in just the last month. Eleven of those stops were in middle-income areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio, where Obama was defeated in the 2008 primaries and Biden's middle-class roots — he grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania — may be an asset. When Biden meets people in a crowd he cups their faces, pinches their cheeks, and eagerly poses for pictures. At a recent rally he teased one woman: "Can I have my picture taken with you?" "He's certainly got much more of a common touch than Obama does, there's no question about that," said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Still Biden, 67, has "a colossal selling job" to do, said Baker. "You're talking about mass merchandising at a time when the value of the product is uncertain."

Childhood Memories

Biden draws on his own childhood, the son of a car salesman who was laid off, to tell voters he feels their pain. "I am angry, I am angry because I see what happened to middle-class people," Biden said at a fundraising dinner for Senate candidate Robin Carnahan in Springfield, Missouri. "People like my parents, like my family, people I know, people I grew up with, who have just been battered by the greed, battered by the indifference," he said, his voice reaching a crescendo. Carnahan is running against Republican Representative Roy Blunt for Senator Kit Bond's Senate seat. The contest is on the non-partisan Cook Political Report's list of the 11 most competitive

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