By Jim Morrill
A fiery Joe Biden ridiculed Republican John McCain's comments on the economy Sunday and refuted attacks on Barack Obama's positions as “a bunch of malarky.”
Echoing his speech at last month's party convention, the Democratic vice presidential candidate told around 1,200 people at Charlotte's Phillip O. Berry Academy that McCain “Just doesn't get it.” The Delaware senator mocked McCain's statement that the economy is fundamentally strong and has progressed.
“I could walk from here to Greensboro,” he said, “I wouldn't run into one person who thought we'd made economic progress unless I ran into John McCain.”
Biden's visit was the first to North Carolina by any of the major candidates since the conventions.
It underscored the campaign's effort to make North Carolina a battleground state. He stressed that during an earlier fundraiser at the south Charlotte home of Crandall Bowles, the former CEO of Springs Global and a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton during the primary.
“We think North Carolina should be in play,” Biden told about 60 people. “We take this state very seriously.”
He said the campaign has 375 paid staff members, and 20,000 volunteers in the state.
At the high school, Biden talked about health care, taxes, energy and job training. The only mention of his Republican counterpart, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, drew a chorus of boos.
“John McCain and Sarah Palin, they apparently don't think we have any obligation … to retrain and reeducate people who've been displaced by a modern economy,” he said.
Biden's supporters made it clear they disapproved of McCain's running mate.
Carolina Brown, 55, a semi-retired teacher, declined to discuss Palin, saying the media has given her too much attention. She pointed to Biden's support for abortion rights and the Violence Against Women Act he championed in 1994.
“I would rather talk about Barack Obama and Joe Biden than her,” she said. “Because he's a better friend to women than our other vice presidential candidate.”
In a conference call with reporters, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from Banner Elk, said Biden and Obama are out of step with North Carolinians.
“Frankly, I think the people of North Carolina would respect more the kind of experience and action Gov. Palin has taken,” she said. “Joe Biden's not had a single day of executive experience.”
McCain spokesman Mario Diaz called Biden's criticisms “just another desperate attack by a campaign that supposedly wants to introduce a new kind of politics.”
Biden hit back against GOP charges that Obama would raise taxes.
“All this stuff about how we're gonna raise your taxes – that's a bunch of malarky,” he said.
According to FactCheck.org, a site associated with the University of Pennsylvania, Obama would cut taxes for middle-income taxpayers and increase rates only for those with family incomes above $250,000, or individuals with incomes above $200,000.
Introducing Biden and his wife, Jill, was Heather Ferguson, a 35-year-old independent.
She recounted how her 2-year-old son Dylan was born with a life-long disease called lymph edemaper Jim. She and her husband pay $900 a month in premiums to a company that has refused to cover treatment for her son.
“To deny my child the only known treatment for his disease is unconscionable,” she said. “Health care should not be a privilege. It should be the right of every American.”
Ferguson was embraced by Jill Biden, whose husband promised to help those in similar situations.
“I absolutely commit to you, I guarantee you, that under the Barack Obama-Joe Biden health care plan, no insurance company will be able to deny you because of a pre-existing condition.… It will not happen.” WSOC-TV reporter Ben Thompson contributed.