WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday told Democrats to stop apologizing for their policies and go on offense as party leaders try to overcome pessimism about prospects for the November election.
At a Democratic National Committee gathering, Biden said he and President Barack Obama have an obligation to raise money and campaign for the party's candidates. He said he has signed up to participate in more than 120 races and that Obama has given him permission to participate in every campaign where he can be helpful.
"I am so tired about hearing about the demise of the Democratic Party. Give me a break," Biden said. "My central message to you is look: I think we should not apologize for a single thing."
In his pep talk to state chairmen, the vice president tried to portray the party as starting on solid ground as campaigning gears up.
"There is no Republican Party," Biden said, accusing the GOP of masquerading as conservative while actually espousing anti-government views that he said Americans reject.
Still, there are widespread concerns that this could be a difficult year for Democrats because of the health care law, Obama's low approval ratings and the prospect of low turnout among the party's base in a nonpresidential year. The party is fighting to protect its slim Senate majority, and a takeover in the House looks unlikely.
Biden alluded to the health law as he encouraged Democrats not to back away from their positions for fear of Republican attacks.
"We are too shy. We are not talking about it enough in my opinion," Biden said.
His address also seemed to preview what Biden's own campaign message might be should he choose to run again for president in 2016.
As Biden opened the DNC's winter meetings, Democrats were starting an effort to protect voting rights and register new voters, aiming to enhance turnout heading into a midterm election typically unkind to the party holding the White House.
"This is no longer about us just playing defense," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who leads the DNC. "When it comes to voting in your states, we're going on offense."
In the past, Democrats have sent election lawyers to pivotal states in the final weeks of the campaign as a way to head off any restrictions on early voting or Election Day problems. The initiative aims to create a more permanent way to address potential voting problems.
Democrats are trying to maintain enthusiasm and the strong turnout that propelled Obama to a second term in 2012. But the party holding the White House usually faces obstacles in the sixth year of a presidency.
With those concerns in mind, Obama and Biden are working to help Democrats to shore up the cash they'll need to fend off GOP challenges.
The president has committed to close to 20 fundraisers. Biden planned to headline a DNC fundraiser at a Washington museum later Thursday, and an event in Phoenix on Friday.
Donna Brazile, the DNC's vice chair, said people often tell her, "'Don't you know this is the 6-year itch?" She told activists, "We're not itching, we're anxious," to campaign on the health care reforms, helping students pay for college and protecting the elderly.
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