TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden made fun of a small group of protesters Sunday, then told supporters that the raucous Republicans are the same people they need to embrace once the election is over.
About two dozen supporters of Republican John McCain wailed loudly outside an event next to Florida State University's football stadium, causing Biden to stop and say, "I thought it was a siren, it's just a whine."
Acknowledging the group, Biden said he would speak louder so they can hear.
"The economic policies of the last eight years are the cause of the economic crisis we find ourselves in now," Biden said, his voice rising. "John _ as my mother would say, God love him _ continues to cling, cling to those same economic policies."
The event began a three-city swing through Florida, a must-win state for McCain. Democrat Barack Obama has erased the lead McCain had in the polls for much of the year, with most polls now showing a statistical tie. Obama has pumped a lot of money and staff into Florida, which has only supported one Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976, that being Bill Clinton in 1996.
More than 4.2 million votes have already been cast in Florida, with Democrats casting about 330,000 more early and absentee votes than Republicans through Saturday, according to figures compiled by the state Democratic Party.
While Biden made several references to the protesters as he criticized McCain, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, he told the crowd of about 1,000 that they need to unite with Republicans.
"We can't moan about the politics of division unless after this election's over, God willing we win, we reach out to the very people out in the outer parking. I mean literally, not a joke," Biden said. "I know you find some of that obnoxious, but ... we've got to end this. Somebody's got to be big enough to stand up and end it."
At the University of Florida in Gainesville later Sunday, Biden pointed out quieter protesters, particularly one waving a large flag with the Republican emblem.
"I also salute our Republican colleagues carrying that elephant out there," Biden said after thanking Florida Democratic Party leaders. As the crowd booed, Biden quieted them. "No, no! That's good, folks. Hey! Hey! Hey no! No, no. It's a good thing, man, it's a good thing."
Biden later stopped in Daytona Beach, where more than 1,000 attended a rally at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Noting the area's connection to auto racing, Biden said, "We just turned the homestretch and we can see the checkered flag, folks."
Biden's trip comes the day after Sarah Palin made a three-city swing through central and northern Florida. McCain scheduled a midnight rally in Miami and plans to campaign in Tampa Monday; Obama plans a Monday rally in Jacksonville.
On the Net: