Biden Takes on Trump, Plays the Union Base

Vice president rallies culinary workers in Las Vegas

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. holds a rally with Nevada Democratic Senate nominee Catherine Cortez Masto at the Culinary Worker’s Union Local 226 in Las Vegas on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. holds a rally with Nevada Democratic Senate nominee Catherine Cortez Masto at the Culinary Worker’s Union Local 226 in Las Vegas on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted October 13, 2016 at 4:56pm

LAS VEGAS — There might be no politician alive more at home outside a union hall than Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

And his trip west for a campaign rally at the home base of the Culinary Workers Local 226 was no exception.

“You’ve been just wonderful, wonderful to me,” Biden said Thursday in the local’s parking lot, standing in front of a Clinton-Kaine campaign sign in the relative shadow of the Stratosphere Tower. “I wouldn’t have won without labor.”

If anything, Biden has only gotten more aggressive in his efforts to campaign for Democrats, and particularly against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after a recently-revealed 2005 video showed Trump making vulgar comments about women. Biden called the remarks “the textbook definition of sexual assault.”

[Biden Calls Trump Comments ’Sexual Assault′]

Combating violence against women has long been one of Biden’s signature priorities, having written the federal law against it while leading the Senate Judiciary Committee. And after The New York Times reported Wednesday evening on two women alleging unwanted sexual advances by Trump, Biden again did not mince words.

He said it was his father who inspired him to champion the Violence Against Women Act, and he has often had people mistakenly attribute the inspiration for the landmark law to his mother.

“He said the cardinal sin of the sins … was for a man to raise his hand to a woman,” Biden said.

“I’m tired of new politicians who want to go to Washington to demean women. I really mean it,” Biden said, before specifying that he was referring to Trump.

[Biden Tours Campuses to Combat Sexual Assault]

Trump has categorically denied the charges.

“They are pure fiction and they are outright lies,” Trump said Thursday while campaigning in Florida. A lawyer for Trump has demanded that the Times retract the story, sending a formal letter to executive editor Dan Baquet.

In Las Vegas, Biden appeared as a surrogate for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s White House bid, as well as for Democratic Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto who is locked in a closely watched race to replace retiring Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Biden said he had learned about Cortez Masto from his late son Beau, whose tenure as Delaware’s attorney general overlapped with Cortez Masto’s in the same post in Nevada. 

“He was the finest man I’ve ever known,” Biden said. “When he announced for governor before he died, no one even announced they were going to run against [him].”

Biden, who represented Delaware for 36 years in the Senate, said he has made helping the Democrats reclaim the majority in the chamber a top personal priority, a point underscored by his travel.

“We are grateful to have Vice President Biden’s support as we seek to win back the Senate,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Sadie Weiner told Roll Call. “No one knows the Senate better than he does, and he’s a strong, tireless messenger for the importance of a Democratic-held Senate.”

Biden described the Senate as an “institution that I have great respect for that’s been lost. It’s really become part of the problem in Washington, the dysfunction in Washington. It is sad.”

[Opinion: A Bittersweet Night for Biden]

“But it can be returned, and Hillary is going to need a Democratic Senate,” he said.

Biden has, to date, headlined about 20 fundraisers for the DSCC or individual Democratic candidates, everything from an event for the campaign committee at the Rock Creek Park home of former West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller to multiple fundraisers benefiting Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Rep. Patrick Murphy of Florida.

The vice president swung by the Democratic National Committee offices on Tuesday to rally the staff at the DNC and the House and Senate campaign committees.

Getting union voters to the polls in and around Las Vegas is key to Democratic chances to hold the Senate seat, pick up House seats in the Silver State and to put Nevada in Clinton’s column. Biden’s hosts on Thursday at culinary workers’ local are essential to that effort. The union said in a statement Thursday that it had registered over 8,000 new voters, as well as helped some 2,200-plus members attain American citizenship.

Before Thursday’s event at the union hall, Biden and Cortez Masto visited a staff dining facility at the Mandalay Bay Resort on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip.

The vice president was also in prime form at a local campaign office, where he hugged a woman in the front row during his own introduction.

“She asked for the hug,” Biden said.