RENO — Vice President Joe Biden told a partisan crowd Wednesday he shares voter anger over the nation’s ills but blamed Republicans and the previous administration, saying the defeat of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would set the country back and imperil the nation’s economic recovery.
Biden spoke for 45 minutes to roughly 500 people at a rally for Reid at the University of Nevada, Reno. Reid is in a tight race against Tea Party-backed Republican Sharron Angle. Polls have said the race is too close to call, and Biden’s appearance was part of a closing push by Democrats as early voting is under way in Nevada.
Reid, who is seeking a fifth term, is vulnerable in his home state, which leads the nation in foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment.
But Biden said the election should not be referendum on the Democratic agenda or the Obama administration.
“I know people are angry. They have reason to be angry,” he said. “I’m angry.”
The vice president, who has been crisscrossing the nation to stump for Democratic congressional candidates, criticized the policies under former Republican President George Bush. Biden alleged they ignored the needs of the middle class and initiated the country’s economic slide.
“They put two wars, the prescription drug benefit … on a huge credit card,” he said.
That sentiment was shared by Ann and Clinton Thomas, a Reno couple who turned out to support Reid.
Clinton Thomas said Democrats deserve more time to turn the country around.
“The mess that Bush made, it is tough to fix what it took one man eight years to destroy,” he said.
The Nevada Republican Party issued a statement, calling Biden and Reid “two peas in a pod” whose policies have “ruined Nevada’s economy.”
“With an unemployment rate of 14.4 percent, the best way to turn the Silver State around is to fire Harry Reid and replace him with Sharron Angle — otherwise Nevada will be forced to live with six more years of Sen. Reid in Washington,” the statement said.
Biden took aim at Reid’s opponent and other Tea Party-backed candidates such as Christine O’Donnell, the Republican nominee for Biden’s old Senate seat in Delaware.
“Having one person with such extreme views is no big deal,” he said. “But folks … they’re all over the place.
“This ain’t your father’s Republican Party.”
Reid focused his remarks on Angle’s comments that it’s not the job of the Senate to create jobs, but rather an environment to allow the private sector to flourish.
“Nevada’s economy is in difficult shape. I know that,” he said. “I believe my No. 1 responsibility as a U.S. senator is to do what I can to create jobs.”
Reid touted his efforts to spur development of renewable energy projects in Nevada, and said $1.8 billion in projects are proceeding in the state.
With UNR students sitting behind him at the lectern, he stressed education and criticized Angle’s call to eliminate the Department of Education.
“A student’s ability to be educated should not be related to how much money their parents have,” he said.
Reid also criticized Angle’s position that the separation of church and state is not part of the U.S. Constitution. “Try the First Amendment,” he said.
Angle’s campaign issued a statement on Twitter, saying Biden’s visit will harm Reid. “Biden’s one of the main accomplices in destroying our economy,” it said.
Reid bears a national bull’s-eye of conservative wrath for his support of health care overhaul and blame for an economy that has been harsh on his home state.
Outside the forum, about two dozen people demonstrated across the street, holding signs the read “Dump Reid” and “Government is the problem.” They chanted “Angle, Angle,” as Reid supporters streamed onto the sidewalk after the two-hour event.