Biden backs Owens, slams Limbaugh in heated New York race

WATERTOWN, N.Y. – Rallying support for Democratic congressional candidate Bill Owens before Tuesday’s special election in NY-23, Vice President Joe Biden today told a mostly full room at the North Side Improvement League to “teach a lesson” to right-wing activists. Ideological activists, said Biden, forced Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava out of the race because they couldn’t brook “dissent with their neoconservative views.”

Joe Biden

“Take Bill’s opponent,” said Biden, referring to Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. “I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but imagine him being able, if he won this election, to take issue with any position that Rush Limbaugh has.” Biden said that the idea of letting “Rush Limbaugh hand-pick” the successor to John McHugh, the Republican congressman who became the Obama administration’s secretary of the army, was unbelievable.

Biden’s speech veered between reminiscing about his college days in Syracuse, N.Y., and bemused attacks on conservative leaders like former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Sarah Palin, who’d backed Hoffman.

“The fact of the matter is, Sarah Palin thinks the answer to energy is ‘drill, baby, drill,’” said Biden. “It’s a lot more complicated, Sarah!”

After some loud laughter at Palin’s name, Biden dialed down that rhetoric and went after The Wall Street Journal, asking whether Hoffman would go along with the laissez-faire policies of its editorial page. “I wonder what Bill’s opponent would have done when we extended unemployment insurance,” he said. “I ask you, when you pick up the paper, to ask yourself — what would Bill’s opponent do about that?”

Biden sounded almost plaintive when he told the crowd that Hoffman’s backers were “the people who created this mess” with deregulation and free-market economics. He explicitly asked moderate Republicans to follow Scozzafava’s lead and back Owens — and he singled out Scozzafava’s husband, Ron McDougall, who was present at the rally.

“I know what all these guys are against,” said Biden, taking another swing at Hoffman and his backers. “I don’t know what they’re for.”

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