CHAPEL HILL — Vice President Joe Biden told those attending a Democratic fundraiser Thursday that his party's midterm election prospects would brighten when voters realize the stark differences between the two parties.
Appearing at a high-dollar reception at the historic Carolina Inn, Biden said Democrats had a story to tell voters, a story of how they helped bring a badly wounded economy they inherited back from the cliff, helped clean up the abuses of Wall Street and extended health care insurance.
"Now that the heavy lifting is over, we can go out and make our case," Biden said in a 35-minute speech.
The vice president said Republicans "are wildly out of step" with popular opinion on a broad range of issues from holding oil companies responsible for cleaning up the spill in the Gulf, to supporting basic regulations that would prevent another meltdown on Wall Street, to extending unemployment insurance to those who lose their jobs.
"They say they want to put on the brakes," Biden said. "But what they really want to do is throw us in reverse. As the president said, they drove the car in the ditch."
About 200 people gathered at the Carolina Inn on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, where they paid a minimum of $500 a person to raise money for the Democratic National Committee. They grazed on hors d'oeuvres such as beef tenderloin on crispy wonton, crab crostini, and spinach and local goat cheese profiteroles.
Biden later held a separate fundraising event for Democratic Senate candidate Elaine Marshall, who is challenging Republican Sen. Richard Burr. Marshall said her smaller fundraiser was quickly put together and was limited to 15 people.
"There is a clear choice in this North Carolina election between a woman who knows what drive [forward] means and somebody who clearly is continuing to be backwards," Biden said.
The Marshall campaign was hoping the national attention - plus a new internal poll by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake showing the Senate race a dead heat - would give her campaign a push.
Biden was introduced by Gov. Bev Perdue.
Mimicking the vice president's now famous overheard comment at the health care bill signing, Perdue drew broad laughter when she said, "I want you to know that it is a big bleepin' deal" to have the vice president in the state.
Biden said he "thanked God" that his mother was not around to have heard him whisper the off-color comment when he didn't know the microphone was working.
Other leading Democrats present were state House Speaker Joe Hackney, Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt and Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.
Biden says people sometimes forget how bad things were in the country when Obama was sworn into office.
"We stabilized the financial system," Biden said. "We were on the brink of a depression. ... We avoided a total economic meltdown."
He said the Obama administration's economic plans were having a positive impact.
"There are three million [more] Americans working today than there were before we took office," Biden said.
Biden said that during last six months of the Bush administration, the country lost 3 million jobs. During the first six months of the Obama administration, the country lost 3.7 million jobs. But during the past six months, country has gained 600,000 jobs.
"That is more jobs than were created in the entire eight years of the Bush administration," Biden said.
Biden said there are limits to what government can do.
"Barack and I are realists. Government is not the answer. But we also know we can plant seeds. These seeds that have been planted have generated whole new industries."
Republicans criticized Biden with state GOP chairman Tom Fetzer calling it the "Audacity of Arrogance Tour."
"The stimulus package has been a complete failure," Fetzer said. "Since it passed, over 60,000 North Carolinians have lost their jobs. The so-called stimulus package has stimulated nothing in this state except unemployment."
In a GOP teleconference, Greensboro businessman Gordon Hunt said the best thing the administration could do is take the restraints off business and allow it to create jobs.
"The economy has gotten tremendously worse since they decided to stimulate us," said Hunt, who runs a lighting company.
Biden arrived in Chapel Hill from Alabama, where he had inspected oil spill cleanup efforts along the coast.
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