Vice President Biden Visits Vermont To Campaign For Shumlin

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(Host) Vermont’s major party candidates for governor spent the final day of their campaigns running hard.

Brian Dubie completed a tour of the state that, over the past four days, has taken him to three dozen towns.

Peter Shumlin turned out his party’s best-known names to help boost turnout.

We have two reports tonight.

First, as VPR’s John Dillon explains, Shumlin’s highest-profile backer on Monday was Vice President Joe Biden.

(Crowd) "Peter! Peter! Peter!"

(Dillon) The crowd at the University of Vermont field house was on its feet and stomping in appreciation. So maybe you couldn’t blame Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Shumlin for getting a little carried away with the moment.

(Shumlin) "And I cannot tell you what an honor it is to have the President of the United States bless Vermont with his presence today!!"

(Dillon) Shumlin quickly recovered and introduced the vice president, Joe Biden. But before he relinquished the stage, Shumlin touched on the negative tone of the campaign.

One of the Republican campaign ads mentions a speeding ticket Shumlin got during the primary. That provided an opening for a Shumlin one-liner.

(Shumlin)  "I ask you this how many of you in this room, and have gotten a speeding ticket, pleaded guilty and paid it, raise your hands. Look at that. Wow! Do not run for governor against Brian Dubie."

(Dillon) The vice president’s speech was both personal and political. He said that in 1972 – after his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident he almost relinquished his Senate career to move to Vermont. He said elders of the Senate convinced him to stay.

Biden touched on his own father’s history of financial struggles and the broader challenges facing today’s middle class.

But mostly, Biden offered a full-throated defense of Democratic policy initiatives of the last two years, including the stimulus package and health care reform.

(Biden) "Folks, we’ve made a lot of progress, we’ve got a long way to go but people like Peter’s opponent, proud George W. Bush Republicans, literally want to undo it all."

(Dillon) Biden warned that GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie would limit education spending in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy.

(Biden) "What’s Peter’s opponent talking about? He says he wants to give what amounts to – I’m told, I’m not expert on the Vermont budget – but $250 million to the top 1 percent, roughly 1,400 people in the state of Vermont.."

(Dillon) The crowd leaving the UVM field house included older voters and students.  Ellen Holmes-Henry came drove down from Fletcher to hear the vice president and was one of the first in line to see him.

(Holmes) "I thought it was way just amazing. It was really moving. The woman next to me was crying, because she had lost her house to foreclosure. I mean it really hit home. He’s a really good speaker."

Shumlin and other Democrats hope early voters like Holmes-Henry and others will be galvanized by the last minute rally – and will provide the margin for victory on election day.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.

To hear Vice President Biden’s entire speech, click the "additional audio" link below.

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