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vice president joe biden in florida Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Florida Democratic Party State Convention on October 28. (Photo: AP Photo/John Raoux)

Election 2012: Vice President Biden Fires Up Florida Democrats

State convention first step in winning swing state

By Topanga Sena | November 7 , 2011

The 2012 Presidential election is a year away, and most of the attention has been on who is competing for the Republican nomination. President Barack Obama is running for re-election, so that means there won't be much of a Democratic primary battle.

But Democrats are not sitting on the sidelines waiting for a challenger. Instead, they're preparing for what Vice President Joe Biden called a fight to "reclaim our heritage."

The Vice President was the keynote speaker at the 2011 Florida Democratic Party state convention. It was held on October 28 at the Disney Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Vice President Biden's role at the convention was simple: energize the Democratic Party, both in Florida and across America. He certainly fired up the crowd at the convention with an impassioned, oftentimes personal speech about what's at stake in the 2012 election.

"The policies of the last administration and the obstruction of this Republican Congress have knocked a lot of people off their feet," Biden said. "It's long past time we get back up, that we stand up, that we reclaim what every American thought was their birthright: the American Dream."

"Folks, this next election isn't a referendum, it's a choice," Biden added. "And we're going to make that choice clear."

He started making the case for President Obama's re-election by touting the administration's accomplishments. Stabilizing the economy, reforming health care, ensuring equal pay for equal work, and engaging in responsible foreign policy were some of the highlights of the President's first two-and-a-half years in office.

Biden contrasted this record with the actions of Republicans he said were "standing in the way of progress." They are playing games with the nation's economy, trying to keep American troops engaged in foreign wars, and are committed to returning to the "failed policies" of the Bush Administration.

"They're counting on America having collective amnesia," Biden said of the Republicans.

By the end of his speech, Florida's Democrats were on their feet and fired up.

kid reporter topanga sena with florida democratic party chairman rod smith
Kid Reporter Topanga Sena and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith at the 2011 Florida State Democratic Convention. (Photo courtesy Topanga Sena)

Bringing Florida Together

Biden's keynote address was the centerpiece of the convention. But it was only one part of it.

United States Senator Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz also spoke at the convention. Party faithful organized fundraising efforts. And President Obama was officially nominated as Florida's Democratic candidate for President.

It also got Florida Democrats excited for the hard work that lies ahead to re-elect President Obama.

"I want to remind people of the tremendous leadership that we have had, that has given so much to this party, to this state, and to this country," Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith told the Kids Press Corps.

This message is especially important in Florida. Florida is typically a swing state. Swing states are ones that represent a large amount of electoral college votes and that can be won by either Democrats or Republicans — usually by a very narrow margin.

In 2008, President Obama won the state with 51 percent of the vote.

"We're a state that's not typically one way or the other," Smith said. "We are the largest swing state in terms of electoral votes."

It will not be easy for President Obama to win Florida in 2012. So Smith's task is to rally the state's Democrats to stay engaged in the campaign and committed to Obama's re-election.

Smith is used to hard work. The newly elected Chairman of the Democratic Party of Florida grew up on a farm. His father was one of his biggest influences. He learned early from his father's example that you have work hard to get the job done.

He's confident that his experience in the Florida state Senate and as a former state attorney has prepared him for what lies ahead. To deliver Florida for Obama, Smith must bring Floridians together — from across the state and across party lines.

"Pensacola to Key West is a long way," Smith said about the geography of Florida. "And my goal is to bring people together to find their points of similarity, rather than their division."

Florida — and America — is a pretty divided place in 2011.By the time it's time to vote in the 2012 election, those divisions could be even deeper. But Smith isn't dwelling on that. He's looking forward and he's optimistic about the future.

"These are tough times, but this country has had lots of tough times," Smith said. "Our generation has tough times, your generation will have tough times, but Americans are very resilient people."

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