Energetic Biden thrills crowd at Democratic Convention

Vice President Joe Biden speaks on the third night of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday, (TNS photo)

Vice President Joe Biden speaks on the third night of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday. (TNS photo)

PHILADELPHIA — Over the past eight years, Vice President Joe Biden has developed a persona as America’s goofy uncle, a notion he has acknowledged.
With his charisma and tendency for honest, unscripted comments, he has endeared himself to many across the nation.

But to some people, the vice president will always be Delaware’s Joe, first and foremost.

“He’s our favorite son,” Delaware delegate Lynn Fuller said.

On Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention, in one of his last major public appearances as vice president, he received huge cheers from an audience made up of Democrats from across the country.

The vice president fired shot after shot at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, touted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and highlighted his time in the Obama administration over the past seven-and-a-half years.

Befitting the host city, the “Rocky” theme blared as the vice president walked on stage at the Wells Fargo Center, while thousands of members of a roaring crowd held up signs with “Joe” and “Scranton” (his Pennsylvania birthplace).

He was introduced by his wife, Jill, and a video highlighting causes he has promoted, such as LGBT rights, curing cancer and fighting sexual assault. Statements that he took on the National Rifle Association and is combating rape on college campuses drew especially loud applause from many in the crowd.

The vice president, using levity and sincerity, offered both a glimpse back and a look forward, referencing his nomination eight years ago in Denver and Mrs. Clinton’s character and qualifications.

“I am more optimistic about our chances today than when I was elected as a 29-year-old kid in the Senate. The 21st century is going to be the American century!” he roared. “It’s true! Because we lead not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example!”

Continuing in a theme started by previous speakers hours before, the vice president issued scathing criticism of Mr. Trump.

“He’s trying to tell us he cares about the middle class. Give me a break. That’s a bunch of malarkey!” Vice President Biden said.

A few minutes later, the crowd erupted into chants of “not a clue” after the vice president made a similar remark about Mr. Trump.

“No major party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or has been less prepared to deal with our national security,” Vice President Biden insisted, telling the audience Mr. Trump has “no plan whatsoever” and promotes policies that “would literally make us less safe.”

The speech also contained a solemn moment, as the vice president mentioned his late son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46.

“I know I sound like a dad but you got a glimpse of what an incredibly fine young man Beau was,” he said, referring to Beau Biden’s speech at the 2008 DNC.

The vice president also praised First Lady Michelle Obama and threw in a shout-out to his home state.

“As they say in southern Delaware, Barack and I married way up. Way up,” he said chuckling, with the reference drawing cheers from the Delaware delegation.

A proud state

Vice President Biden has been a public figure in Delaware for more than four decades: He was elected to the New Castle County Council in 1970 and won a close race to represent the state in the U.S. Senate two years later.

He held that seat for 36 years, a Delaware record, before being selected by Barack Obama as his pick for vice president in 2008.

Superdelegate Robert Gilligan, the former state House speaker, has known Vice President Biden since his run for county council.

“I used to teach social studies, and I always told the students no one from Delaware, no one from Delaware because we have three electoral votes, could ever be elected president or vice president,” he said shortly before the convention gaveled in. “It’s impossible. It was impractical. It wasn’t going to happen. And he did it.”

During his years in the Senate, Vice President Biden took the train  to Washington every morning and back to his house every night, to enable him to be with his family. Now, he regularly visits his Greenville home and has made surprise appearances at local events, giving a thrill to many unsuspecting Delawareans.

“He genuinely holds Delaware in his heart,” delegate Catherine Ciferni said.

Many Delawareans have followed the vice president’s career closely, rooting for him when he sought the presidency on two occasions.

His personal story — wife and infant daughter killed in a car crash just weeks after he won his Senate seat in 1972; eldest son killed by brain cancer in 2015 — is familiar to many residents of the First State.

“I watched his kids grow up,” Mr. Gilligan said.

On Wednesday a portion of the Delaware contingent started the day by attending a taping of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” with the vice president, who spoke to the delegates and took questions afterward.

“It’s hard to believe that this might be the last time we hear from Joe Biden on a stage like this,” superdelegate Lisa Goodman said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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