Vice President Joe Biden swung through St. Louis Friday to extol a largely youthful crowd to send Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander to the U.S. Senate.
Biden spoke to hundreds of people at The Pageant, a popular music venue in St. Louis. His visit comes amid a tightening race between Kander and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt in a contest that could determine whether Democrats take over the U.S. Senate next year.
Kander's aides estimated that nearly 2,000 people came to hear Kander and Biden speak.
During his remarks, Biden praised Kander for being part of the “9/11 Generation” that chose to serve in the military after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Kander served as a military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, experience that he’s emphasized in his television ads and in his stump speeches.
“He’s a patriot, like I said like my son,” said Biden, referring to his late son Beau Biden. “He came home to serve just as he left to serve. He served the Missouri House and as Missouri Secretary of State. He’s the kind of person we need in politics, in both parties as he said: Young. Optimistic.
“Although I have to admit, not that young,” he added. “I was elected to the United States Senate at 29 years old.”
After noting that some people in Washington, D.C. derisively refer to him as “Middle Class Joe,” Biden said that Kander would fight hard to bolster Americans who hang in that economic bracket – especially after the economic recession.
“There’s always been a promise – a promise that’s existed here,” Biden said. “If you do well, if you play by the rules, there’s a basic bargain. If you help the enterprise do well, then you do well. Well that bargain’s been broken. It’s been broken. And ladies and gentlemen… not only does Jason get that the middle class has been hammered, he gets that it’s not just their economic standing – but our dignity.”
As Kander rises in the polls and in the eyes of national prognosticators, the 35-year-old secretary of state received vital assistance from third-party groups spending millions of dollars attacking Blunt. He’s also had high-profile Democrats campaign for him, including U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.
But Biden’s visit may be the most visible evidence yet that Kander’s campaign is on the radar of the national Democratic establishment. And it may showcase the robust effort to make the Senate as blue as possible if Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton defeats GOP nominee Donald Trump.
Before Biden spoke, Kander played up the fact that if he were to beat Blunt, he would be the first Millennial to serve in the U.S. Senate. He said “we need more people in Washington in both political parties who would volunteer for something in their lives that is more difficult than a re-election campaign.”
“This is a generation that is more focused on ideas than on ideology,” Kander said. “It is a movement that measures your patriotism not by your eagerness to send other people to war, but by their willingness to do what’s right not matter the political cost.”
Fired up and ready to go
Before Biden and Kander spoke, a huge line stretched around the block to get into The Pageant. Some of the people that made it included scores of young people, including Washington University student Michael Yee.
Even though Yee is voting in California, he said there’s a lot to like about the secretary of state’s candidacy.
“This is a very different election season than normal,” Yee said. “A lot of red states are looking at voting blue and a lot of blue states are thinking about voting red. So it’s more important than ever to look at the candidate more than the party. And a lot of what Kander has said has spoken to me: Both the liberal parts of me and the conservative parts of me.”
The rally also featured numerous members of organized labor, a key demographic that’s primarily helping Democratic candidates like Kander. Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis said he is “all too aware that the future of organized labor is on the ballot and we have to send Jason Kander to protect that.”
“Is he going to create union jobs? Is he going to fight right to work? You bet he is!” Louis said.
St. Peters resident Jim Riney said he’s still getting to know more about Kander, he’s enthused about Democratic chances to retake the Senate.
“There are been so much of the Republicans stonewalling everything trying to get done in Congress,” Riney said. “So maybe this will be a wakeup call that people will vote and get those guys out and get people in who are willing to work for the country and not their special interests.”
St. Charles resident Amy White said she was attracted to Kander’s military service in Afghanistan. And she added that Kander “has a realistic view of how life is in America for normal citizens.”
“We have a chance to have two Democrat senators,” White said. “We have a chance to bring Missouri in to the 21st Century – have more progressive agenda in Missouri.”