SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden turned a Fourth of July celebration into a campaign stop to stress his deep roots in Pennsylvania, which has become a battleground state in this presidential election campaign.
After signing autographs for youngsters at the Little League field where he once played baseball, Biden went downtown to regale hundreds watching in camp chairs and blankets on a warm, sticky Tuesday evening with childhood stories.
He called the blue-collar, northeastern city of Scranton the “grit, sinew and soul of what freedom is all about.”
“This county, this city, has gone through some tough times. It’s had its heyday. It’s come back,” Biden said. “So many sons of Scranton have been knocked down, but they’ve gotten back up, time and time again.”
He didn’t make a reference during his 10-minute speech to his boss, President Barack Obama, or presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The event itself wasn’t organized by the campaign — Biden crashed Scranton’s annual holiday celebration on a park dedicated to military veterans in between the federal and Lackawanna County courthouses.
Regardless, Biden tried to score points with voters in familiar territory, in a state that once again is seen as competitive in this fall’s election — even though Pennsylvania hasn’t gone Republican since backing George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Obama is scheduled to campaign in Pittsburgh on Friday, his second trip to Pennsylvania this year. The visit coincides with the Obama’s campaign release of a new TV ad in Pennsylvania this week that criticizes Romney’s economic philosophies.
Biden on Tuesday was joined by another Scranton native, fellow Democrat and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who is also running for re-election. There was no mention of the economy by either Biden or Casey — but plenty of talk about the vice president’s Scranton ties.
Also joining Biden onstage were his sister, Valerie Biden Owens, and son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. Wearing khakis and a light-colored dress shirt unbuttoned at the collar, the vice president spoke on a humid night under menacing gray clouds.
“My name is Joe Biden, and as strange as it sounds, everything important in my life, that I learned, I learned here in Scranton,” said Biden, who was brought up in a working-class Catholic family. “I’m serious.”
Casey arrived to greet Biden at the airport before they met with local labor leaders. Biden and his family then joined Casey for a visit to the home of Casey’s mother, Ellen Casey.
The visit also included a stop to the Green Ridge Little League Field, where he gave young players a history lesson.
“I’m so old I played the first game ever played on this field,” said Biden, though he admitted he never got a chance to get into a game.
The children gave the vice president a baseball signed by members of the league all-star team. Biden promised he would put the ball on the bookshelf in his office.
Assistant coach Gary Knight said it meant a lot to the children to see the vice president at their home ballfield.
“This is a moment they will remember for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Aides said Biden planned to return to Washington after his speech — skipping out on the fireworks display at the event billed as the “Scrantastic Spectacular.”
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