Vice president gets warm welcome during Beloit visit
BELOIT Seventh-grader Oscar Martinez-Cruz wanted to make sure he looked good for the vice president of the United States, even if it meant a last-minute shopping trip the night before.
The Aldrich Middle School student dressed in a blue shirt with a black tie and coat, complete with a lapel pin, to see Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign stop Friday morning at the Beloit middle school.
“I was excited to see him,” said Oscar, who had hoped to get a picture with Biden.
Beloit firefighter Steve Warn introduced Biden to more than 1,100 people who packed the gym.
Biden reviewed the administration’s accomplishments from ending the war in Iraq to creating jobs.
“And yes, we did rescue the automobile industry,” he said to cheers and applause.
“The American people, they have such a clear, clear choice in what direction they want this country to move in this election,” he said. “There’s never been a starker choice in my lifetime.”
Biden, dressed in a blue shirt and blazer, spoke for a half hour from a teleprompter in front of a large American flag, flanked by American and Wisconsin flags. A giant “Forward” sign hung over the top of one set of bleachers, while a hand-painted Obama/Biden sign was taped to the wall above the other bleachers. The gym scoreboard lit up with 20:12 on the clock and the score at 11-6.
The visit was Biden’s sixth to Wisconsin this year.
Penny Perkins of Beloit said she had a hard time sleeping the night before because she felt like she had won a Willy Wonka golden ticket.
She supports President Obama because he’s “for the little people,” she said. “I can see what he’s done every day.”
Biden had U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin join him at the lectern, introducing her as the next Wisconsin senator. Baldwin is running against former Gov. Tommy Thompson.
“We need help in the Senate,” he said. “Go get ’em!”
Boos filled the room when Biden brought up vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Janesville. Biden discouraged the booing, saying Ryan is a decent guy but someone he fundamentally disagrees with.
The vice president stuck mostly to script. When he mentioned he talked with Obama on Thursday night, one man in the crowd yelled, “Tell him we love him!”
Biden responded, saying not a day goes by that he’s not proud to be Obama’s vice president.
Elections come down to character, he said, because character is the most important ingredient to lead the nation.
“It’s clear who has character, and it’s clear who doesn’t have character,” he said.
Obama doesn’t mislead, and “says what he means and means what he says,” Biden said to a fired-up crowd that stood during much of his speech. Romney and Ryan are desperate and will say anything to win, he said.
“Folks, we need you!” he said. “Together we can win Wisconsin. If we win Wisconsin, we win this election!”
On their way outside, Beloit College sophomore Olivia Canizares and her friends couldn’t contain themselves after shaking hands and receiving kisses on the cheek from the vice president. Canizares was so excited she started dialing her mom on her cellphone to share her big moment.
The group got the last three tickets and eventually made it to the front of the standing crowd on the gym floor. Seeing Biden was amazing, Sara Sherrard said, noting his focus on women’s rights as being especially important.
The way Biden speaks makes his points clear, Sophie O’Connor said, and the way he “intellectually” defeated Republican talking points scored points with her.
Karen DePold of Janesville was excited when she heard about the local campaign stop. She wore a navy blue sweater with the letters USA across the front. She said she’s been on Facebook “pounding and pounding” her support for Obama and Biden.
“They’re probably tired of me on Facebook,” she said with a laugh.
“We’ve got to have these guys four more years,” she said.
The campaign provided about 100 tickets for students, Beloit Superintendent Steve McNeal said. Other students attended with their parents.
Students did not participate in the program, and school officials said the district takes no position on which candidate or party should be endorsed. A permission slip went home with the selected students to give parents the option to have their students not attend the event.
For many students, the visit was a tease as classes continued during the event.
“Can we pet the dogs?” one student asked security officials in a hallway before the speech.
Students clamored against classroom windows as Biden’s motorcade left the school.
A handful of protesters from Pro-Life Initiative in Rockford, Ill., waved anti-abortion signs with a graphic photo on the sidewalks. At least one woman shouted at the protesters, saying children shouldn’t have to see such a photo.