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Joe Biden talks economy, Iraq war at UF

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Posted: Monday, November 3, 2008 12:00 am

Less than 48 hours before Election Day, about 4,500 people gathered on the Reitz Union North Lawn to hear Sen. Joe Biden as part of the Obama campaign's final push through Florida.

Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and his wife, Jill, were introduced by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to a Gator-chomping crowd. Biden, donning a Gator cap upon entrance, was accompanied by his son, Hunter, and oldest granddaughter, Naomi.

Despite a increasing drizzle, the crowd remained cheery before Biden took the stage at about 4:40 p.m., holding signs with slogans such as "Biden's my favorite Joe" and grooving to songs such as "Celebration." ObamaBot waved its arms in rhythm as it rolled around the crowded arena.

Jill Biden, a longtime teacher, spoke of her husband's commitment to family, public service and education before the vice presidential hopeful addressed the crowd.

An alumnus of the University of Delaware, Biden told the crowd he watched the Gators beat the Dawgs on Saturday.

"I thought, 'Thank God we don't play the Gators,'" he said.

Amid cheers, boos and a chant of "Jill, baby, Jill," Biden spoke for nearly 30 minutes about Sen. Barack Obama's presidential goals, which he said include strengthening middle-class America, regaining international respect and ending the Iraq war.

"I'm here with a simple message: Change is on the way," he said.

Biden bundled McCain's goals with the "failed" economic and foreign policies of President George W. Bush, adding that McCain was guilty of "Karl Rove" politics.

"They have called Obama every name in the book," he said, adding that "Mr. President" would join the list come Tuesday.

Biden also brushed off Dick Cheney's recent endorsement of McCain, citing support Obama has received from financial tycoon Warren Buffet and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Some attendees trickled into the arena at about 1 p.m., entertained off and on by members of a jazz band, who played for free but said they would be reimbursed by a photo with Biden.

Throughout Biden's speech, about 25 students supporting McCain waved Republican campaign signs and a yellow Gadsden flag, used during the Revolutionary War, by the back fence of the arena.

"It stands for preserving liberty," said Bryan Griffin, UF College Republicans chairman, of the flag, adding that Obama's policies would strip Americans of some liberties, such as choosing how to spend their money.

Not all Republicans were there to protest.

"I wanted to see the next vice president of the United States," said Josh Simmons, Gators for McCain chairman.

Simmons said he voted for Obama about two weeks ago.

"I've seen a different John McCain than the one I signed up to work for," he said.

Simmons said he submitted his resignation Sunday night and will no longer be chairman for the group, which has more than 1,000 members.

"I expect them to be incredibly pissed off," he said.

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