RICHMOMD, Va. - Vice President Joe Biden continued a busy political pace Saturday, appearing with Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate at the swing state's premier party fundraiser and ridiculing this fall's conservative Republican statewide ticket as extreme captives of tea party ideology.
Biden brought about 1,000 Democrats to their feet repeatedly at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner barely four months ahead of the nation's only competitive governor's race. His appearances at state fundraisers haved evoked speculation that he is laying his footing for a 2016 presidential bid.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we stand for equal rights and women's rights," Biden said. "With virtually zero support from the Republicans, the president and I have moved the country from the worst recession since the Great Depression to 38 months of private-sector growth."
With Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe at his side, Biden took aim at McAuliffe's opponent, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who won the GOP nomination with strong tea party support and his socially conservative ticket mates.
"There is so much they stand for that is so at odds with the value set of Virginians," Biden said.
The vice president warned that a GOP victory in Virginia would only galvanize the tea party's grip on the GOP in Congress, where he said even longtime moderate Republicans are fearful of a primary challenge if they don't do the tea party's bidding.
"They are so afraid of a challenge by the tea party that they vote against what is the right vote. Imagine what they will do to Barack and me if Terry McAuliffe loses," he said.
A McAuliffe victory, he said, would "send a strong signal to Republicans across America that there's no reason to be afraid of these extreme guys."
Before speaking to activists who paid $175 or more per ticket, Biden joined McAuliffe, a longtime confidante of Bill and Hillary Clinton, in surprising patrons at a Richmond restaurant, shaking hands before wolfing down two plates of fried whiting.