Liveblog: Biden stumps in Greeley

Joe Biden makes his first foray into Colorado as the Democratic VP nominee by sticking a finger in the eye of the Republican Party where the Kerry-Edwards 2004 presidential ticket picked up a measly 36 percent of the vote.

We’re liveblogging at the University of Northern Colorado, home of the rural political bellwether of Weld County on the first leg of Biden’s two-day campaign swing through Colorado.

12:02 p.m.: Bad disco music reigns here in Greeley
Oddly only a sliver of the Butler-Hancock gym is occupied for the event where about 2,000 folks are standing shoulder-to-shoulder to the strains of “Ain’t No Stopping Me Now.”

The security lines are painfully slow here though one fellow did slip through while carrying a worn paperback of “Presidential Assassin” by Brian Haig. Security personnel apparently didn’t bat an eye, according to the avid reader.

12:10 p.m.: Is McCain pulling out of Colorado?
Yesterday, CNN’s John King reported that McCain insiders were conceding Colorado to Obama (and Iowa and New Mexico) in order to concentrate on electoral college kingpin Pennsylvania. McCain’s folks say that’s not the case.

But new voter registration figures and the polls have not been promising for McCain-Palin in this longtime red state. As we reported today, Colorado has an active Dem voter majority for the first time in decades.

12:19 p.m.: Someone has seized control of the music
Yay. No more disco music. Playing lots of U2 and more uptempo music.

Crowds still trickling in through long, slow security lines.

12:25 p.m.: Interesting crowd here
Obviously lots of students due to the campus proximity but a very mixed group of retirees, working people and minorities. Those on the risers behind the podium have attempted a couple of lame waves and call and responds but it’s not really getting any steam.

12:26 p.m.: Biden is on the way
A fire official just whispered over my shoulder that the Biden motorcade is about 20 minutes away from UNC. This will be the senator’s first stop ever in Colorado. A second event is slated for Adams High School in Commerce City mid-afternoon.

Appears that the auditorium is filled and approximately 1,500 people outside are out of luck. A sound guy told our photojournalist Bob Spencer that a speaker on the stage will be pointed outside toward a door so the folks ringing the sidewalk can hear the speeches.

12:34 p.m.: Vote early! Vote now!
Campaign staffer encourages attendees to take advantage of poll rides to early voting locations outside the gym. An old fire truck adorned with anti-Amendment 47 signs is out in the parking lot along with volunteer poll drivers.

12:38 p.m.: Warm up acts are pumping up the crowd
Maggie Fox, wife of CD-2 representative and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Udall, got a raucous welcome and is pounding on renewable energy themes. And then veers off into weird campaign speak with non-sequiturs and stories from the trail that don’t make a whole lot of sense.

Aarrggh. Fox leaves the stage and we’re back to bad disco music. And the crowd buzz noticeably deflates. “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” may work at drunken wedding receptions but not so much at political rallies where the copyright-protected playlist is limited.

12:47 p.m.: Not quite sure about the logistics
Fire officials from the town of Union Colony estimate that there’s 3,500 people inside and another 500 left on the sidewalk still trying to get through security. What’s odd is that only a weird diagonal jag of the gym is being used that takes up a little less than a quarter of the floor space. Will try to find out whether it was a feng shui issue or the travel-weary advance team was punchy this morning as they rushed to set up the space.

12:55 p.m. Biden is in the house!
My buddy from Union Colony told me that the senator is in the building. We joke that he must be freshening up his latte and chomping down an argula salad to bolster his liberal credentials before hitting the stage. Firefighters are fun!

1:01 p.m.: Okay, I like U2 but…
I’ve heard “Beautiful Day” five times already. C’mon. Even the jolly firefighters behind me are complaining.

1:05 p.m.: The crowd is getting riled up
Something resembling a wacky Greeley wedding reception receiving line is forming on the stage. Mini American flags and “the change we need” signs are being handed to the crowd. And something rapp-ish about “touching the sky” is blaring from the speakers followed by “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” for the 14th time. Oh, how I love a political rally.

1:12 p.m.: The Secret Service is among us
Dour faces, cool wrist radios and all have entered the arena where the restless crowd is corralled. Looks like we’re getting closer to kicking off the event. Which means only one important thing besides Joe Biden’s speech — no more disco interlude. Hooray!

1:17 p.m.: Thunderous applause erupts
Has Biden entered? Nope, false alarm. But the traveling press in a curtained-off area next to the local media space is happily munching on catered food. I just ate a mint I pulled out of my backpack — lunch of champions, it is.

1:24 p.m.: Dignitaries take the stage
Greeley Ward 1 councilman and Navy vet Charlie Archibeque goes after the Republican Party for going after small things and not working on building the economy. Claims that McCain’s economic plan leaves out 72 percent of Greeley while the Obama-Biden plan benefit 97 percent of locals.

Fact check?

Archibeque introduces CD 4 candidate Betsy Markey who gets wild reception from the crowd. “Weld County is the nut you have to crack to win the fourth district.”

1:30 p.m.: Markey gets the crowd on its feet

Markey claims 98 percent of Greeley families will get tax cut under Obama-Biden Administration. She further calls for Obama-Biden pledge to enact a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures. Weld County has the 4th highest foreclosure rate in the state and has been hard hit by the mortgage crisis.

But she slips in referring to Biden as a single parent. I think his wife, Jill, may have something to say about that.

Markey intros Biden and gets a warm embrace on the stage to thunderous applause.

1:33 p.m. Biden takes the stage.
“Hello Greeley!” A woman screams “We love you, Joe!” He laughs it off and asks her to write a letter to his wife.

Biden’s making small talk and then launches into Colin Powell’s endorsement to an ear-splitting roar from the crowd. Biden mentions that he talked to Powell earlier today that the former Secretary of State told him to win.

“Polls and endorsements do not determine the outcome of an election,” says Biden. He implores the crowd and TV viewers at home to vote early, vote now. He says that the ticket can’t forgo a single vote because the Republicans will throw everything at him and Obama between now and Election Day.

1:40 p.m.: He doth protest too much
Biden slams McCain for arguing in the latest debate that he was not a replica of President Bush despite his voting record and winning the GOP primary by pledging his fealty to Bush politics.

Boos erupt from the crowd when Biden talks about McCain’s plan to continue the Bush tax cuts.

Wow. Who gave Joe the triple shot coffee? He’s flinging red meat Democratic talking points on jobs and taxes. Calls for tax breaks to small business and zero capital gains.

But where is the revenue coming from if not from taxes?

1:45 p.m.: Strikes a contrast with the GOP ticket
Biden offers two overriding, straightforward goals: Restore the middle class and reclaim the respect of the world for the United States of America.

Crowd goes nuts when Biden calls for ending the Iraq war.

“I’m a Catholic, I believe in redemption.”

Claims that Bush is negotiating a withdrawal from Iraq by mid-2009 and that McCain is the only one clinging to staying in Iraq.

1:51 p.m.: Turning the page
Firebreathing stump has moved on to serious tones about assisting the middle class. He notes that Obama is talking with governors today about how to assist states that are crumbling under the nation’s economic woes.

“Everybody seems to get it except John McCain,” says Biden. Calls McCain the odd man out by lurching from one policy to another. “Lurching” is the new “erratic”?

Equates the emotional crisis, dignity and respect for people under threat of foreclosure who have played by the rules and find themselves in this predicament through no fault of their own.

Crowd swells when Biden discusses bringing the country together to work through the economic problems. He talks about isolating the extremes. The crowd is rapt.

Now, he’s shouting about the robocalls that have plagued Colorado voters for the last week. He demands that the McCain campaign end the calls because the nation cannot take the divisiveness and anger.

1:57 p.m.: “We’ve got to stop this stuff”

Biden notes Sarah Palin’s attacks on Obama and the recent controversial comments on “real America” that she has since backed away from. He shouts that we are an indivisible nation to loud cheers.

That sentiment appears to have resonance with the public. The Pew Center just released a new poll that Obama leads 52-38 over McCain nationwide.

2:00 p.m.: Biden wraps up speech
Encourages the electrified audience to early vote to strains of Stevie Wonders’ hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

The photogs pounce on Biden as he plunges into the rope line.

Now on to Commerce City…

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Wendy Norris

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