Biden comes to town for O'Malley

Vice President Joe Biden heaped praise on Gov. Martin O'Malley at a Baltimore fundraiser Monday evening, telling a room of 200 supporters that the governor can be trusted to lead, in part because he "feels" the pain of ordinary Marylanders "in the gut."

Speaking for half an hour at the private event at the Baltimore Hilton Convention Center, Biden highlighted some of the themes O'Malley regularly hits while on the stump: keeping jobs in Maryland and pushing a tax credit for small businesses.

Tickets to the event, intended to raise money for O'Malley's re-election campaign, ranged from $250 to hear the Biden's remarks to $1,000 for a brief private reception with the vice president. Members of the host committee paid $4,000.

Biden is the first big-name Democrat to stump for O'Malley, who is locked in a tight re-election race with his predecessor, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. O'Malley has spent more than his opponent, airing two radio commercials and a TV spot. Fundraising reports will not be made public until August.

Biden said that he has known the governor since O'Malley was mayor of Baltimore. "This is a man whose passion for Maryland starts in the gut and moves to the heart," the vice president told the audience.

The economy and fiscal management was the theme of the day Monday. Hours before Biden arrived in Baltimore, the state Republican Party issued a statement calling him "the Administration's chiefspokesman for the failed stimulus bill" and saying that the legislation had failed to create as many jobs as promised — a subject of continuing debate.

Biden said during his speech that the stimulus plan was always going to be a difficult sell. He pointed to the more than trillion-dollar deficit the Obama administration inherited and mocked Republicans for calling themselves good fiscal stewards.

"I find it fascinating that our colleagues [in the Republican Party] talk about fiscal restraint," Biden said. "That is like an arsonist talking about fire safety." Part of the role of government, he said, is to create an environment where businesses can grow.

Pointing to the 2008 financial crisis, Biden blamed the GOP for lax oversight on Wall Street. "They gave us a Ponzi scheme masquerading as vision," he said.

The event was spare; food included only a table of hors d'oeuvres and desserts. It was held at a ballroom in the Hilton, a $301 million city-owned hotel O'Malley fought hard to build when he was mayor.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also took a dig a the Republican budget management, saying the GOP was "driving our economy into the ditch."

Biden repeatedly complimented Sen. Barbara A. Mikluski, who also gave brief remarks. She likened the Maryland Democrats to the NATO alliance. "If you attack one of us, you attack all of us," she said.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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