Philadelphia, Pa. (CBS DC/AP) — Vice President Joe Biden told Democrats Friday that the past six years have been “really, really hard” for the country and the Democratic Party.
Speaking at the House Democratic Caucus retreat in Philadelphia Friday morning, Biden stressed that “really tough decisions” have faced both Democrats and the country as a whole.
“To state the obvious, the past six years have been really, really hard for this country,” said Biden.
“And they’ve been really tough for our party. Just ask [former DCCC chair] Steve [Israel],” continued Biden. “They’ve been really tough for our party. But together – and together — we made some really, really tough decisions — decisions that weren’t at all popular, hard to explain.”
President Barack Obama looked to boost morale following major congressional losses to Republicans in the midterm elections. Obama urged solidarity within the Democratic Party and mocked the GOP for appearing to embrace more liberal ideas in their political rhetoric.
“Even though their policies haven’t quite caught up, their rhetoric is starting to sound pretty Democratic,” Obama said of Republicans at the House Democratic retreat on Thursday. “I consider imitation the highest form of flattery.”
He added that Democratic policies have been successful where Republican positions have failed.
“What we know is that middle-class economics works,” he said. “That’s pretty rare where you have two visions, a vigorous debate, and then you test who’s right. And the record shows that we were right.”
“I’m not giving up the last two years, standing on the sideline,” Obama said, to a standing ovation. “There is no economic measure by which we are not better off,” he said, adding that Democrats must tell that story.
Earlier, Israel said House Democrats are “absolutely unified on three essential messages going forward. And it’s middle class, middle class and middle class.”
Israel acknowledged that Democrats talked a lot about the middle class in last fall’s elections. But world calamities distracted voters, he said, and Democrats failed to show that their economic policies would directly benefit working-class families.
Riffing on a campaign line from presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992, Israel said the Democrats’ new theme will be, “It’s MY economy, stupid.”
Seeking new ideas, dozens of House Democrats filled out a “messaging survey” on key points to stress. Israel displayed the resulting word cloud. The phrases cited most often were “middle class,” ”paycheck growth” and “jobs.”
Democrats groused about Obama’s poor approval ratings last November, and most in tight elections kept him away. Now that jobs, the stock market and the president’s popularity are rising, however, they’re more content to acknowledge their ties to him.
“He’s our messenger in chief,” Israel said.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)