Vice President Joe Biden was in Philadelphia on Wednesday to pick up the endorsement of the nation’s largest firefighters union, and while its convention took place several miles north of the Delaware border, he made it clear he felt very much at home.
Biden, who has been on the campaign trail seeking a second term for himself and President Barack Obama, told the International Association of Fire Fighters that it was nice to speak to an audience that he not only agreed with, but one he felt “totally comfortable” with.
The former Delaware senator said that he learned when he was a “29-year-old kid” making his first run for office in the First State that there were three political parties: “the Democrats, the Republicans and the firefighters.”
And firefighters have “been my best ally my whole career,” he said in a speech streamed live on the Web.
“I owe them and as some of you know, I owe them so much more. I owe them the life of my two boys,” he said in a reference to the 1972 auto accident that killed his first wife, Neilia, and year-old daughter Naomi. Biden’s sons, Hunter and Beau, survived.
He demonstrated why the campaign has made him its point person with unions and middle-class voters, portraying congressional Republicans as obstructionists and the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, as out of touch. He frequently interchanged “firefighters” and “middle class” in his speech.
“I don’t think this other team understands you guys,” he said, adding that he used to be able to find common ground with Republicans when it came to firefighters and police. “They lay the blame for this recession on you,” he said.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Biden continued, charging it now sees firefighters, teachers and police as “the community’s problem” rather than as a part of the community.
Calling them heroes, he said funding police and fire services should be a priority over tax cuts for millionaires.
Wilmington firefighter Craig Black, who is president of IAFF Local 1590 and one of three Delaware delegates to the convention, said Biden was well-received.
“What a great speech, moving and heartfelt,” Black said, adding the vice president did his job of solidifying support for Obama.
“One thing I know is Joe knows the fire service,” he said.