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Originally published October 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 20, 2008 at 1:05 PM

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Biden exhorts Tacoma crowd

At a rally in Tacoma that drew an estimated 12,000 people, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joseph Biden rejoiced over the endorsement of Barack Obama by Republican and retired general Colin Powell but cautioned supporters not to be overconfident about Obama's lead in the polls.

Seattle Times business reporter

TACOMA — Liz Burn waited more than six hours to hear Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joseph Biden speak at a rally at Cheney Stadium on Sunday.

"It's worth it," she said before the rally even started. "They're my rock stars."

Burn was among 12,000 people who attended what campaign staff members called Biden's biggest vice-presidential rally.

Clouds melted and the sun warmed the field just before the event kicked off, featuring the biggest names among Washington Democrats. After warm-ups by the likes of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks and congressional hopeful Darcy Burner, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell introduced U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who introduced Gov. Christine Gregoire.

By the time Gregoire ceded the podium to Biden, the crowd had been through hearty rounds of cheering for Democrats and booing President Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Biden lavished praise on the governor and senators, and wished Burner well in her 8th District race with a "good luck to you, kiddo." Then he turned to stumping for the presidential ticket.

He rejoiced over receiving the endorsement on Sunday of Republican Colin Powell, a former general and secretary of state, but cautioned supporters not to be overconfident about Barack Obama's lead in the polls.

"Polls don't determine the outcome of elections; votes do," the Delaware senator said, reminding people that the deadline for registering in person to vote is today.

"We've been dug into a very, very, very deep hole, both internationally and at home," he said. "The stakes could not be higher. ... This is the single most consequential election since 1932," when Franklin Roosevelt won the presidency.

With Obama as president, Biden said, the country's economic fortunes would improve.

He also disparaged McCain's economic policies as more of the same-old Republican trickle-down ideology.

"There's not one fundamental economic issue that John McCain disagrees with George Bush on," Biden said. McCain wants to "double-down" on tax cuts to the wealthy, he said.

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That's not to bash the wealthy, said Biden, who headed after the rally to a $1,000-a-head reception and a $25,000-a-head "VIP" event at the Seattle Sheraton.

"I think they're just as patriotic as poor folks," he said. "We just haven't asked as much of them."

He and Obama would restore America's middle class and regain respect for the U.S. internationally, Biden said.

"The first step we're going to take is we're going to end this war in Iraq," he said to wild cheering.

Biden reiterated the campaign's plan to cut taxes for the middle class, saying it's "not just because it's fair," but because helping the middle class benefits the economy as a whole.

He also called for Congress to institute a three-month moratorium on mortgage foreclosures to give the $700 billion bailout of the financial industry time to work.

And Biden rebutted recent Republican concerns about redistributing wealth, saying that rich Americans have become richer under Republican policies. They have been redistributing wealth, he said, "and it's been all the wrong way."

Helping the middle class through this hard time is about more than saving the economy, Biden said, assuring the crowd that he and Obama know how deeply the crisis cuts into people's lives.

"It's more than losing your house, it's losing your self-esteem," he said. "It's not just about you losing your job. It's about dignity."

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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