Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden as a running mate could give the ticket a boost in Florida -- thanks to Biden's ties to South Florida, including support among a cadre of influential Democratic fundraisers.
Enthusiastic Democrats said Saturday they expect Biden to help Obama in the state by shoring up support among a group of longtime Democratic fundraisers and activists who have staunchly supported Hillary Clinton.
''As far as uniting the party, Joe Biden is going to contribute significantly to that,'' said Miami developer Michael Adler, who has known Biden since the early 1970s, when his sister, Karen, was one of Biden's first legislative aides. "Joe has been around the Democratic Party for a long time, so he can be a bridge between the established network and the new people with the Obama campaign.''
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said he talked with Obama last Tuesday and put forth two names: Biden and Clinton.
''He's an excellent choice for Barack in Florida,'' Nelson said of Biden, noting that he ''knows all the players on the world stage,'' but has never lost touch with his working-class roots.
''He's got appeal across the board,'' Nelson said.
And Democrats suggested Biden strengthens Obama's foreign policy credentials and could help build trust among Jewish voters who have viewed Obama with some caution.
''Senator Biden will be an especially effective advocate for the Obama-Biden ticket in South Florida given his unwavering support for U.S.-Israel relations...'' said Rep. Robert Wexler, who as Obama's Florida campaign co-chair has sought to assure Jewish voters of Obama's pro-Israel credentials.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a onetime Clinton delegate, said she has been a fan of Biden's since college -- 20 years ago as a member of Students for Biden.
''His foreign policy expertise, his support for Israel and his deep understanding of economic issues make him the perfect choice as Barack Obama's running mate in these times of economic hardship and global strife,'' the Weston Democrat said.
Republicans sought quickly to undermine Biden on Israel, with Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks accusing Biden of failing to recognize the threat Iran poses to Israel.
But Adler said the GOP is distorting the facts.
''It's a fabulous choice for the campaign as far as the pro-Israel community is concerned,'' said Adler, who was national finance chair for Biden's last presidential campaign and helped with his first bid for the presidency in 1988. "For those who like to suggest that Obama is a fresh face and we don't know what he would do in a tough situation, now he has a partner who we know will be there to ensure the right decision.''
Biden even has friends among Republicans in Florida. He has known former Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher since boyhood; and Ana Navarro, a Miami fundraiser who co-chairs John McCain's National Hispanic Advisory Council, has been friends with Biden since they met several years ago. But Navarro, who contributed $1,000 to Biden's presidential campaign in 2007, stuck to the party line.
''I know and love Joe Biden,'' she said Saturday. "But it doesn't change my mind one bit. Bottom line is, he is hitching a ride on Obama's train, not steering it.''
Republicans said putting Biden on the ticket suggests Obama is worried about shoring up his foreign policy credentials. But they noted the two don't always agree.
''The problem is that Senator Biden has been the leading critic of Barack Obama's foreign policy,'' Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer said. "As our troops continue to move toward victory in the global war on terror, we need leaders who not only have the experience to lead us to victory, but who agree on a plan to get there.''
The Florida Democratic Party, though, noted that even Greer has had nice things to say about Biden in the past. The party pointed reporters to remarks Greer made to The St. Petersburg Times in which he said Biden "brings experience, he's outgoing, he has a good personality.''
''While we don't always agree with the RPOF when they get involved in our party's affairs, I have to hand it to Jim Greer, who had his finger on the pulse of the Democratic ticket,'' said Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff.