FULLERTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden accused Republicans of dismantling American ideals Thursday evening at a campaign stop aimed at helping regional Democrats running for Congress and possibly testing the waters for his own presidential run in 2020.
With less than five weeks until the Nov. 6 election, Biden rallied a supportive crowd of about 500 at Cal State Fullerton, urging them to alter the nation’s current political trajectory by helping Democrats take control of Congress — a change he said could hinge on electing several locals vying for GOP-held House seats.
The former vice president also seized the opportunity to rebuke his potential political opponent – President Donald Trump – excoriating the president’s policies and actions.
“This is the most important election you’ve ever voted in. Our core values, the America story, is being assailed,” said Biden, who served two terms as vice president under former President Barack Obama.
“Here’s the good news: The folks with me here today and a Democrat-controlled Congress are going to take this President on.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, center, shares a laugh with congressional candidates, Katie Porter, left, and TJ Cox, right, at the conclusion of Biden’s speech speaks at a rally for California Democratic House candidates competing for GOP-held seats at the Titan Student Union on the campus of Cal State Fullerton in Fullerton on Thursday, October 4, 2018 . (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Former Vice President Joe Biden Joe Biden speaks during a rally for six California Democratic House candidates competing for GOP-held seats at the Titan Student Union on the campus of Cal State Fullerton in Fullerton in Fullerton on Thursday, October 4, 2018 . (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
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People try and get a photo of former Vice President Joe Biden Joe Biden, left, as he takes a selfie following a rally for six California Democratic House candidates competing for GOP-held seats at the Titan Student Union on the campus of Cal State Fullerton in Fullerton in Fullerton on Thursday, October 4, 2018 . (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Former Vice President Joe Biden, center, shares a laugh with congressional candidates, Katie Porter, left, and TJ Cox, right, at the conclusion of Biden’s speech speaks at a rally for six California Democratic House candidates competing for GOP-held seats at the Titan Student Union on the campus of Cal State Fullerton in Fullerton on Thursday, October 4, 2018 . (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Biden, 75, has ramped up his midterm campaigning in recent weeks, trying to help Democrats pick up some of the 23 seats they need to gain nationally to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. In that fight, Democrats are targeting seven GOP-held seats in California – stretching from San Diego County to the Central Valley – where voters favored Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The effort has placed Orange County, once a Republican stronghold, in the national spotlight. National political groups and others have fueled tens of millions of dollars of spending in regional races, and helped lure appearances from some of the biggest names in national politics. Obama came to Anaheim last month to support of California’s House candidates, his first campaign event since 2016. Both Biden’s and Obama’s appearances were hosted by the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
While Biden didn’t hint at his presidential intentions on Thursday, his speech often bordered on a campaign-trail address, frequently contrasting his vision of America with Trump’s.
He accused Trump of helping provide a “safe harbor” for hate, highlighting Trump’s comments following the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally. He decried the nation’s polarization, and argued that Trump has weakened America’s international influence in his dealings with Russia and Europe. He criticized Republicans for trying to repeal Obamacare and to eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions. And he blamed the GOP for helping to increase income inequality.
“Our institutions are methodically under assault,” Biden said. “This Republican Congress, to my overwhelming disappointment, is choosing party over country because they’re afraid of this president.”
During his 46-minute speech, Biden also took time to emphasize the qualifications of the five Democratic House candidates in attendance: Democrat Mike Levin, who is running to win CA-49, the House seat vacated by the retirement of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista); Harley Rouda, running against Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) in CA-48; Katie Porter, opposing Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) in CA-45; Gil Cisneros, vying for Rep. Ed Royce’s (R-Fullerton) open seat in CA-39; and T.J. Cox, who is running against Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) in CA-21.
Each of those candidates also spoke briefly during Thursday’s rally.
Levin attacked the platforms of his Republican opponent, Diane Harkey, calling her a “rubber stamp” for Trump and noting that she didn’t believe that humans were causing climate change.
“My opponent, Ms. Harkey recently told Breitbart that if Democrats win back the House, it’ll be like California all over the nation,” Levin said. “I don’t know about you… I happen to love California. We celebrate our diversity. We’re a hub of innovation. We protect our environment. And we believe in economic opportunity.”
In response, Harkey said by phone that Levin was out of touch with the 49th Congressional District, which spans San Diego and Orange counties. She said she was happy that Biden and Obama had come to town, predicting it would spur higher Republican turnout.
“Levin and the Democrats are running on a $1.5 trillion tax increase, higher gas taxes, open borders, sowing chaos with impeachment hearings, and socialized, government-run health care that would double the size of our debt,” Harkey said. “That’s not what voters in this district are looking for.”
The Fullerton rally came the same day that an LA Times poll showed that Democrats are leading or tied in at least six of the competitive California districts, raising the potential of a sweep that could significantly transform the state’s political landscape. Despite that forecast, Democrats said Tuesday that several of the races could come down to a few hundred votes and urged supporters not to ease up.
Olivia Trujillo, a first-time Democratic city council candidate from Kern County, drove three hours to hear Biden speak in Fullerton. She said she was diagnosed with cancer during the Obama administration when she didn’t have health care, but was able to obtain Obamacare and made a full recovery.
“I love everything he is,” Trujillo said of Biden. “I’m tired of the way things are being run.”
Biden has said he will decide by January whether to make his third run at the presidency, which would see him enter a potentially packed Democratic field. Biden has used his campaign road appearances to frequently attack Trump. That trend is likely to continue in the former vice president’s upcoming visit to London, where he’s expected to criticize the president’s foreign policy.
In response, Trump has publicly criticized Biden and other possible 2020 contenders in recent weeks.
In the midst of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings, Biden has recently come under scrutiny for his handling of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations in 1991. Biden, then the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, emphasized that an FBI investigation into Hill’s allegations shouldn’t “be worth anything” because the probe didn’t offer conclusions as to what happened.
On Thursday, Biden didn’t directly address his role in that hearing. But he mentioned that “after the way Anita Hill was treated,” he would do what he could to make sure there is never another such hearing where women aren’t represented “on the Democratic side of the (Judiciary) committee.” He also touted his office’s authoring of the landmark 1994 Violence Against Women Act
During his Southern California visit, Biden also squeezed in some fundraising. On Wednesday, the former vice president attended Los Angeles fundraisers for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and for his own political action committee, American Possibilities, which has reported raising $1.9 million this cycle.
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