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Biden to the rescue: The vice president and House freshmen

October 5, 2009 |  8:15 am

Vice President Joe Biden campaigning for President Obama's health care reform at Leisure World in Silver Spring, Md. on Sept. 23, 2009

Today, Vice President Biden heads to Connecticut, where he'll attend a fundraiser for Democrat Jim Himes, a House freshman. Then he's off to New York to raise Big Apple dollars to help Democrat Paul Hodes in his race for the Senate in New Hampshire.

It's all in a day's work for the vice president, who has been leaving large footprints on the 2010 campaign trail. Below the national media's radar, often while President Obama is tussling with Congress over hot-button issues like healthcare, climate control and executive pay caps, Biden has been out on the stump trying to prevent Democrats from taking a bath in next year's elections.

Since August, according to Politico.com, Biden has appeared at fundraisers for a dozen House Democrats -- most freshmen -- filling their campaign coffers with more than $1 million.

He's also been on the phone, persuading reluctant challengers such as Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan to take on Republican incumbents, in this case in Pennsylvania's CD-15.

Traditionally, the party in power in the White House tends to lose seats in off-year elections. Democrats now hold a 79-vote margin in the House, but Republican John McCain carried 47 of those districts -- giving Republicans hope of winning back quite a few.

"It’s going to be a very challenging cycle," Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, acknowledged in an interview with the Boston Globe.

Unlike his predecessor Dick Cheney, Biden is a natural at retail politics. While the vice president's tendency of going off script sometimes hurts him in Washington, on the stump he's personable, popular and apparently persuasive. Take a listen.

“This election is, in a sense, bigger than the last election," Biden said at a fundraiser in Philadelphia for New Jersey Democrat John Adler, a member of the class of 2008. “If you’re on the other side, what do you want to do? You want to make sure that all those guys who won in close districts last year lose. If you do that, it’s the only hope you have, if you are the other party, of stopping the momentum for the kind of change we ran on and we committed to.”

 -- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Associated Press

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