Florida seniors hear Biden, declare him an asset to Obama

Miami HeraldSeptember 2, 2008 

Hundreds of residents packed an auditorium at a retirement community in South Florida Tuesday to hear Sen. Joe Biden in his first visit to Florida as the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Biden's foreign policy experience is a positive for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign, residents of Century Village in Deerfield Beach said.

''He's got years of experience and he's very knowledgeable about the wars,'' said Ettalie Simons, a Century Village resident.

Biden spoke to a standing-room-only crowd, a largely Jewish audience, spending much of his speech supporting Israel and Holocost survivors.

Biden said Israel needs the Democrats to win to thrive.

''We are in fact her best last chance,'' he said.

Century Village, home to about 10,000 seniors in the summer, is one of the largest strongholds of Democratic voters in Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale. It's a popular spot on the campaign trail for Democrats.

''Our citizens vote and they vote in every election,'' said Bernie Parness, president of the Village's Democratic Club. "These are people who take their responsibility seriously, are interested in the candidates and what they can do.''

Barack Obama chose Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Scranton, Pa. native, for his foreign-policy experience and blue-collar appeal. As a Delaware senator for 36 years, he was seen as a safe choice for Obama and someone to ease some voters' concerns about Obama's short tenure in Congress.

Biden will help reassure Jewish voters that Obama is pro-Israel and lure activists and fundraisers who previously supported Sen. Hillary Clinton, say Florida Democrats.

A recent survey of Florida voters by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research showed the race as almost dead-even: 45 percent favor Barack Obama and 44 percent favor Republican John McCain. Obama's decision to pick Biden didn't sway voters either way, the survey showed.

Obama campaign workers also plan to take advantage of Biden's visit to collect nonperishable food items for hurricane victims. People are discouraged from bringing such items in bags because of security reasons. Residents were also encouraged to donate items at Obama's South Florida offices.

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