DEMOCRATIC vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden went stumping for votes yesterday in Northeast Philadelphia, where Democrats need to earn the love of Democrats who voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the April primary.
He worked a diner, gave a rousing speech on bread-and-butter issues at a union hall, and reeled off a memorable line tying the Republican candidate to the unpopular team in the White House.
"My friend John McCain and George Bush are joined at the hip," Biden said. "And we need a hip replacement very, very badly."
So how is the ticket doing with the Northeast's white working and middle-class voters?
Mike McAleer, the veteran Democratic ward leader of the 66th ward in the far Northeast, said Obama and Biden haven't closed the deal yet.
"The Dunkin' Donut crowd tells me that we've got everything going for us but Obama," McAleer said. "They can't give me a direct answer. Do I have them right now in the 66th ward? No. But I got 60 days to get them."
Asked what the problem is with Obama, McAleer paused and said: "It's his color . . . I tell them he's half white and half black. He's got a better perspective for everything in this country."
Joe Dougherty, business manager for Ironworkers Local 401, which hosted Biden's morning event, also said race is an issue for many Democrats.
"I hear it in the neighborhood, and I hear it in the union," Dougherty said. "But I remind them (Obama's) mother was white. He sees all sides, and he could be just what we need to bring this country together."
Biden talked to the crowd of about 200 senior citizens and union members about lower taxes, trade agreements that protect American jobs, and ending what he called the Republicans' "war on unions."
Later, Biden and Gov. Rendell worked the lunchtime crowd at The Dining Car, a neighborhood spot on Frankford Avenue.
Biden smiled, laughed, shook hands and sometimes hugged diners or slid into booths next to them. Sometimes he felt the love coming back, and sometimes he didn't.
Charles Daukas said he'd vote for the Obama-Biden team.
"Put it this way, if Hillary was running I would have really went hard for it," Daukas said. "But I'm a Democrat."
In a corner booth, Biden sat down and, after a moment's conversation, planted a kiss on the forehead of Carolyn Bauer, age 89. Bauer explained afterward it wasn't such a friendly encounter.
"I told him I'm not going to vote for him," Bauer said. "Anybody who runs with a guy with a name like that is not going to get my vote. It'd be disgusting to get a man named Barack Obama as president of the United States. No way. I mean it . . . I'm going to vote for McCain and the lady."
"[Obama's] a Muslim," Bauer added. "He pretends to be a Christian, and he isn't, he's a Muslim."
Obama has attended Christian churches for years, and his children are baptized.
After his stops in Northeast Philadelphia, Biden attended a rally in Langhorne. *