COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Three weeks from the general election, Vice President Joe Biden told hundreds of South Carolina voters Tuesday that it's crucial to support Democrats if they value financial success and the ability to advance.
The vice president, who has said he might mount a third presidential bid in 2016, told a crowd gathered at Allen University's downtown Columbia campus that the Republican Party says it supports the middle class but doesn't back that up fiscally.
"They talk about how much they care about us all," Biden said, telling the student-heavy audience the GOP has supported cuts to education funding and student loans.
The appearance was billed as a get-out-the-vote rally. It featured several prominent South Carolina Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn.
Throughout his tenure as vice president, Biden has continued to carefully cultivate ties to key states, including South Carolina, where he would have to seek support should he decide to run in 2016.
Biden has made frequent visits to the state that is traditionally the third in the nation to hold a primary in a presidential election year. He headlined the state party's annual dinner last year. He's also paid visits to Iowa and New Hampshire and helped raise money for Democratic candidates competing in those critical presidential states.
The last time he was in South Carolina was in May for a commencement speech at the University of South Carolina and a state party fundraiser. He was also scheduled to headline a party fundraiser during this swing.
Biden has been traveling heavily in the run-up to the election. Last week, he was on the road nearly every day campaigning for Democrats on the West Coast.
"We have to get the vote out. We have to move forward," Biden said to the cheering, sign-waving crowd. "It's time for us to stand up and make no apology for what we believe in."
Biden's connection to South Carolina is multifaceted. He has vacationed on Kiawah Island, spoken at the 2010 dedication of a University of South Carolina library named for former U.S. Sen. Ernest Hollings, and, two years later, traveled to Charleston for a funeral vigil for Hollings' late wife, Peatsy. In 2003, he eulogized longtime U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond.
In a news release, South Carolina Republicans decried Biden's trip as a political trip on the public's dime.
"Joe Biden's taxpayer-funded campaign tour marches on in South Carolina today, but South Carolinians aren't fooled. They hate seeing their tax dollars wasted and they most certainly don't want the failed Obama-Biden policies being forced on our state by people like Vincent Sheheen," Chairman Matt Moore said, mentioning the Democrats' gubernatorial nominee. "Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Vincent Sheheen are wrong on every issue facing this state and nation."
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