Vice President Joe Biden was in town at lunchtime Friday, raising cash for Mark Critz, the Democrat who’s the nominee for his old boss’s job as congressman for the 12th District. He’s running in a May 18 special election against Tim Burns, the GOP nominee.
Reflecting the national attention focused on the race, Mr. Biden’s visit came the day after former Speaker Newt Gingrich was in Latrobe raising cash for Mr. Burns.
Mr. Biden spent about an hour at the Grand Concourse with the local Dems. According to the poll report provided by our esteemed colleague from across the river, Mike Wereschagin, the closest the Veep came to making news was in his exuberant predictions of big job growth in the coming months.
After leaving the South Side, Mr. Biden was headed to Scranton _ have you heard he’s form Scranton _ for another fund-raiser, this one for his old Amtrak buddy, Sen. Arlen Specter. Partisans of Mr. Specter’s primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak planned to stage a protest there, urging Mr. Biden to urge his pal to quit attacking the Sestak military record.
For a fuller account of the Biden Pittsburgh stop, here’s Mike’s official pool report
About 100 people attended the brunch fundraiser at the Grand Concourse in Station Square on the city’s South Side, including Reps. Mike Doyle and Jason Altmire. The buffet included scrambled eggs, cinnamon raisin French toast with butter and syrup, bacon, sausage links, home fried potatoes with onion and peppers, prime rib of beef, smoked salmon, cream cheese, bagels, breakfast pastries, butter, preserves, fruit juice, coffee and tea. Tickets started at $250.
The main hall of the Grand Concourse, a former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad terminal built in 1901 and refurbished in 1978, is decorated with mahogany doors and window moldings, stained glass windows and chandeliers, and a curved stained-glass cathedral ceiling about three stories above the floor supported by beige marble columns.
VPOTUS spoke on a platform erected on the room’s west side, with an American flag behind him, a blue, white and yellow “Mark Critz for Congress” banner on his right, and two teleprompter screens.
VPOTUS entered the room at 12:05 with Critz. VPOTUS wore a gray suit, light blue shirt and a red and dark blue-striped tie.
Critz, in a gray suit, white shirt and red and blue-striped tie, spoke first for just over 6 minutes.
“This guy’s the real deal,” Biden said of Critz.
“I have a great deal more trust in people who arrive at the right answer when it starts in their gut,” goes through their heart and ends in their head, Biden said.
VPOTUS predicted between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs would be created next month with more in the following months.
“All in all we’re going to be creating somewhere between 100 and 200,000 jobs next month, I predict,” Biden said, adding that he’s “got in trouble” for a job growth prediction in March. “Even some in the White House said, ‘hey, don’t get ahead of yourself.’ Well I’m here to tell you some time in the next couple of months we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month. Because I’m telling you something, folks. We caught a lot of bad breaks on the way down. We’re going to catch a few good breaks because of good planning on the way up.”
VPOTUS described the district as an independent-minded and hard-working area.
“Hell, this is the home of the Whiskey Rebellion,” Biden said. Later, “You haven’t lost any of that edge.”
The PA-12 is “defined by vocal leadership.”
He praised Critz as “a product of this district’s” ethic and “a Pennsylvanian through and through.”
Biden campaigned for the late Rep. John Murtha during Murtha’s special election campaign in 1974. After winning the vice presidency, Biden said Murtha was the first person he invited to the Naval Observatory to discuss how to approach the administration’s priorities.
“It was Jack,” said Biden, who called Murtha “a close personal friend.”
VPOTUS talked about Critz’s work at the site of the Quecreek mine disaster in 2002: “While we were praying, Mark and some of you guys were down there, down at that mine pumping water.” He asked “how many guys in his position” would have done the same.
“As John’s economic development director, he was always the first one you called,” Biden said.
“It’s about jobs,” Biden said. “He cares about one thing above all else: jobs.”
“A job is about more than a paycheck. It’s about respect. It’s about dignity, and too many people in Western Pennsylvania, too many people in my native state of Pennsylvania (and in) my home state of Delaware have had their dignity stripped … through no fault of their own,” Biden said.
VPOTUS said banks are paying back bailouts with interest, and GM “paid back their entire debt with interest two days ago.” People have more faith in American-made autos than foreign-made, he said, and the housing market is rebounding.
On the stimulus, he said predictions of waste have not proven true.
“There is no evidence of waste yet,” Biden said. Signs of recovery are “directly attributable to the Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
Critz, Biden said, “knows a thing or two” about the affect infrastructure jobs like road projects can have on a region’s economy. He rattled off several local highways where work is being performed.
Biden finished speaking at 12:41. Motorcade departed 12:48.
Excerpts from Critz’s introductory remarks:
“When I went to work with Congressman Murtha, I found a home,” Critz said.
“I have never been happier in my life” than when “serving the people of the 12th District.”
“Nobody knows this Western Pennsylvania district like I do.”
The election will be about jobs, Critz said.
“It’s not about Democrat. It’s not about Republican. It’s about coming together to serve the people,” Critz said.
“It’s very bittersweet for me to be standing here in front of you,” Critz said. He said he never planned to run, but decided to because “we’re at a stage in our history that is so critically important.”
“Let’s look forward,” Critz said.
With VPOTUS sitting behind him, he the U.S. has to “revisit” NAFTA.
“Let’s look at how we protect U.S. jobs. Let’s not ship jobs overseas willy-nilly,” Critz said.
“There shouldn’t be a reward” for creating jobs in other countries, Critz said.
Western Pennsylvania’s large coal reserves, natural gas in the Marcellus shale formation and wind energy manufacturing capability mean “Western Pennsylvania could be poised to be the energy capital of the world.”
“This is such a critical time. We need to look forward,” Critz said.
“We’re in the right. We’re doing the right thing. This isn’t about pundits. This isn’t about newscasters’” predictions, Critz said.
He said he got emotional thinking about Biden’s appearance for Murtha in the ’74 campaign. “My standing here in front of Vice President Biden ties me to that history.”
“I’m going to do a good job. Nobody is going to outwork me,” Critz said.