AP Photo/Scott Sady
Published Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 | 3:40 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 | 7 p.m.
Vice President Joe Biden launched a two-day campaign swing through Nevada on Wednesday with a singular mission: motivate supporters to hit the early voting booths in this critical battleground state.
At a campaign rally in Reno, Biden pleaded with supporters not only to vote early but to drag their family and friends with them to the polls. His message is expected to be similar when he rallies union workers and other supporters at the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas on Thursday morning.
“Before we get started here, I want to remind you of a very important thing: In Nevada, early voting starts Oct. 20,” he said as he opened his speech. “There’s no reason to wait until Nov. 6 to make sure we win.”
Driving the early vote turnout is a key part of the Democrats’ ground game. Four years ago, nearly 60 percent of voters turned out during the two-week early voting period prior to the election.
Biden spoke to an energetic crowd of more than 500, who appear buoyed by President Barack Obama’s debate performance Tuesday night. They started a refrain of, “Malarkey!” — Biden’s most memorable line from his own debate — whenever he began describing Romney’s policies.
To build his case to supporters, Biden struck an upbeat tone, working to make the case that a future with four more years of Obama in the White House would be brighter than the alternative.
But he also took the time to attack his Republican rivals, Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, on nearly every issue: taxes, the debt, women’s health and jobs.
“We have a fundamentally different value set than our opponents and we have a different way forward,” Biden said.
“They talk about this ‘culture of dependency,’ about America being in decline," he said. "I don’t recognize the country they’re talking about. It’s not where I live. … America isn’t dependent, nor is it in decline.”
Meanwhile, Republicans gathered on a nearby street corner with a backhoe adorned with signs mocking Biden’s comment earlier this month that the middle class “has been buried” in the economic recession that the GOP blames on the Obama administration’s policies.
“The vice president is right: The middle class has been buried under this administration's failed economic policies. Nevadans cannot afford four more years of double-digit unemployment and trillion-dollar deficits,” said Romney spokesman Aaron McLear.
In his 37-minute speech, Biden took care to tick off issues targeted at each of the important voting blocs in Nevada — women and Hispanics especially.
“Barack and I are absolutely, positively committed to ensuring one fundamental point: that my daughter and my four granddaughters and his two daughters grow up having every single opportunity my sons had,” he said.
On immigration, Biden accused Romney of being “out of touch, not only with Hispanics but the vast majority of Americans."
“I was proud of the American people when they overwhelmingly supported the action taken by the president to lift the cloud of deportation off the kids brought here through no fault of their own,” he said.
Biden continued to hammer Romney for failing to detail how he would pay for his tax plan. Romney has proposed lowering tax rates while eliminating or capping common deductions. Critics say capping such deductions as for mortgage interest or employer-provided health insurance would disproportionately hit the middle class.
Biden accused Romney of targeting the tax deductions that “make life more livable” for the middle class and at the same time attacking funding for social safety net programs such as Medicaid.
This is Biden’s eighth trip to Nevada since he became vice president. His last speech in Reno was cut short by a raging wildfire that forced the evacuation of the high school where he was speaking.
Doors open at 9:30 a.m. for Biden’s speech at the Culinary Academy.