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Wanna be startin' something


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A day after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his newly announced running mate, Paul Ryan, left North Carolina, Durham Mayor Bill Bell made it clear that there is no room for Romney's politics in the state.

"We look forward to finishing (our) journey in November by keeping North Carolina blue," he told a cheering crowd at the Durham Armory.

There was room—and plenty of enthusiasm—for Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden spoke in downtown Durham Monday afternoon as part of President Barack Obama's national campaign; meanwhile, Obama spent the day in Iowa as did Romney and Ryan.

Nine hundred people turned out to see Biden, applauding successes of Obama's first term: the Affordable Care Act, student loan reform and foreign policy achievements.

Durham voters were also recognized for their support of Obama. In 2008, Obama carried Durham County with 76.1 percent of the vote, the largest margin in the state.

"I know quite well that the president knows quite well that Durham did its part [in 2008's election]," said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, who represents parts of Durham in the 1st Congressional District. "Now, four years later, we must ensure that every North Carolinian is involved in this election."

With the Romney-Ryan ticket official, Biden emphasized the two are good men, albeit men whose values conflict with the American people.

"We have fundamentally different visions of how to restore America, and it comes down to a fundamental different set of values," he said.

"More than any other office, the presidency is about character," Biden added. "The character of your convictions. It's about whether or not you put the country above politics."

Ryan, who leads the House Budget Committee, has proposed extreme cuts in social services and health care, including Medicaid and Medicare, undermining these key programs for the poor, disabled and elderly.

Ryan's plan is similar to health care legislation passed in Texas. Nearly a quarter of that state's residents are uninsured, the highest percentage in the nation.

His vision for Social Security, as The New Yorker reported in a profile of the Wisconsin congressman this month, would devastate the program at virtually no savings.

"American workers would be able to invest about half of their payroll taxes, which fund Social Security, in private accounts. As a plan to reduce government debt, it made no sense. It simply took money from one part of the budget and spent it on private accounts at a cost of $2 trillion in transition expenses," The New Yorker reported.

In 2005, President Bush's support for even a watered-down version of Ryan's proposal marked the start of his decline, the article said.

Biden spent the majority of his speech reiterating that he and Obama are invested in creating a more fair social and economic climate for everyone in the country.

"Give the American people an equal chance and they will never, ever fail us," he said.

For North Carolina, one of the most pressing issues Biden addressed was unemployment. The state's 9.4 percent unemployment rate is the sixth-highest in the country.

"A job's about a lot more than a paycheck," Biden said, sharing lessons he said came from his father. "It's about your dignity. It's about respect. It's about who you are. It's about your place in the community. It's about your sense of your self. And for too many hardworking Americans who played by the rules (and) did everything by the numbers, they saw themselves lose $16 trillion ...The middle class got clobbered through no fault of their own. They were stripped of their dignity," he said.

Obama and Biden won North Carolina in 2008 by just 14,000 votes. With its 15 electoral votes, the state plays an integral part in the 2012 contest.

After announcing Ryan as his running mate, Romney visited Mooresville and High Point over the weekend—but skipped the previously scheduled stop in Morrisville. In High Point on Sunday, Romney told his supporters, according to media reports, "If we win North Carolina, we will win the White House."

Bell seemed to doubt Romney's statement. With the continued support of volunteers around the state, Obama could easily take North Carolina in November's elections.

"I know the enthusiasm and the strength of those of you that are in this room today perfectly mirrors what this campaign is all about," he told the crowd.

Biden said that his and Obama's restoration of America wasn't over and they were both eager to continue.

"Let's finish what we started," Biden told the crowd before leaving the stage.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Wanna be startin' something."


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