Politics

Biden Gives Midterm Pep Talk at Rebooted Retreat

Former vice president says Democrats need to not lose focus on working class

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. speaks during the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in the Capitol Visitor Center auditorium on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the stage at House Democrats’ retreat on Wednesday to cheers of “Let’s go, Joe!” and a solitary cheer of, “Run Joe, run!”

He dismissed the remark, but told the room he’ll do whatever he can to help Democrats win the House majority in November.

“We have a real opportunity to take back the House,” Biden said, before suggesting there’s a chance Democrats could flip the Senate, too.

Democrats need to gain 24 seats to win a House majority. Democrats must pick up two Senate seats, but are currently defending 10 seats in states President Donald Trump won in 2016.

“It’s a little more of a climb, but it’s real,” Biden said.

“Sometimes you can just feel it, you can taste it. There’s something out there — If we don’t miss this opportunity,” he said.

Biden cited Democratic victories in Virginia and New Jersey last year, as well as Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ upset in Alabama’s special election. He said Democrats should be able to win in next month’s special election in Pennsylvania.

Watch: ‘It’s the Custom of the House to Hear the Leader’s Remarks’

And then he zeroed in on Trump, admitting he’d largely held his tongue until the president’s comments about the racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., last year.

“We have to stand up for and protect the core values of this nation. They’ve never been under such direct assault as they are today,” Biden said, telling the caucus that world leaders have called him asking, “‘What the hell is going on?’”

“The president’s looking out for himself only,” Biden said, and Republicans are looking out for him. “So it’s our job to remind the American people we’re looking out for them,” he said.

But he warned Democrats against getting distracted.

He spoke especially forcefully about what he called a “false choice” between fighting for socially progressive values and delivering a message of economic security for the middle class.

He also cautioned Democrats against losing sight of their own message when responding to the president.

“We are so concerned with stopping the attack on American values,” he said, that the party has sometimes had trouble “getting back to the real work.”

“We’ve got to start hollering more loudly for those folks out there,” he said of working class Americans. “We ought to be able to chew gum and walk at the same time.”

“Go out and holler guys, go out and holler! You’re going to win back the House,” Biden said, quickly concluding his remarks before a question-and-answer session with members for which the press was not allowed access.

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