Paul Steinhauser: VP Biden praises economic recovery, avoids 2016 talk in NH
CONCORD - In a speech aimed at cementing the Obama administration's legacy, Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday touted White House accomplishments over the past six years.
The vice president stayed on message during three stops in his first visit to New Hampshire since last September, avoiding any talk of a possible 2016 presidential bid.
Highlighting the country's economic recovery, the vice president said "thanks to the great determination of the American people and the actions we took together over the past six years, this country has gone from crisis to recovery and now we're on the verge of resurgence if we're wise."
"America's not only back, it's leading the world again," he added.
Biden's comments came during an address in Concord at the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership, and Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire Law School.
Biden also received the center's second award for distinguished public service. The award was bestowed on the vice president by John Broderick, the Rudman Center's executive director and a former New Hampshire Supreme Court chief justice, as well as being a longtime Biden friend and supporter.
Broderick said that his friend "has been in public service for four decades," joking that Biden's "only 47-years old."
Rudman was a Republican senator from the Granite State in the 1980's and 1990's who was known as a centrist on Capitol Hill, someone willing to reach across party lines to get things done. Biden lamented Rudman's 2012 passing, saying "I miss him as a colleague and a friend."
And he praised Rudman's ability to work with Democrats, saying if the late senator were alive and serving in Congress today "Warren Rudman would not remain silent in the face of what's going on."
Biden added that "a lot of our future will be decided by how we behave, by how we treat one another, whether we're willing to put aside personal animosities, and putting the country forward."
And the vice president pointed out that "when government doesn't work, it's not the politicians who get hurt, it's the American people. It's hardworking ordinary Americans who get up every day and go to work, pay their taxes, pay their bills, take care of their families.
The vice president spent parts of his speech highlighting the administration's fight to raise up the middle class.
"When the middle class does well, everybody does well. The economy expands," Biden said. "Just give them a fighting chance."
In the afternoon the vice president took part in a roundtable discussion with students, educators, and business leaders at Manchester Community College.
Biden pushed the administration's proposal to make community college more affordable and accessible, in part by offering two years of free tuition.
"We can cut in half the cost of a four year degree, Biden said.
"We're trying to create the circumstances where businesses know how to know," he added.
Before the roundtable, the vice president got a tour of the school's welding training program, talking to some of the students as they explained out the tool machines worked. Biden came away with a gift from the school, a metal moose cut from one of the welding machines.
The Vice President's trip to the first-in-the nation primary state follows a stop two weeks ago in Iowa, which kicks off the primary and caucus calendar, and last week in South Carolina, which holds the first southern contest in the battle for the party presidential nominations.
While all three trips were listed as official White House visits, the political geography is obvious, and fuels the ‘will he or won't he' speculation over Biden's 2016 ambitions.
Biden, who made bids for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008, has not ruled out running again for the White House. But the vice president has not taken any concrete steps towards launching a campaign.
In his more than hour long speech and question and answer session in Concord, and his one hour and fifteen minute roundtable in Manchester, Biden, who was fighting a cold, avoided any mention of his 2016 ambitions.
A longtime Biden adviser, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, told NH1 that when it comes to 2016, the Vice President's "thinking about it but doesn't feel he has to rush the decision. He's focused on his day job."
If Biden did launch a presidential campaign, he'd be considered a longshot against all-but-certain White House contender Hillary Clinton. The former secretary of state, who's lining up top staffers for a second presidential bid, is the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination, according to every national and early state poll.
"Polls show Hillary Clinton at above 60%, I don't think any candidate has polled at that level before which make this race very difficult for any other Democrat to win. Possible but not very probable," said a leading Democratic strategist who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.
NH1 spoke with some students - registered Democrats living in the Granite State - who were in the audience at the Rudman Center about the race for their party's nomination.
Asked if Biden should run for the nomination, Cassie Simmons said "I would like to see him run, just because it will vet Hilary a little bit more for the actual race. I think it would be a good thing to have her be opposed in the primary."
Elizabeth Ewing had a similar message, saying that "I would love to see some competition."
Greg Sidner said if Clinton doesn't run, he'd like to see Biden launch a campaign, adding that "I'm a big fan of Joe, seems like a good guy and has done a great guy the past eight years."
Chloe Golden agreed, saying that "I would like to see him run. I think he would be a good candidate."