NASHVILLE - Vice President Joe Biden, former Vice President Al Gore and Gov. Phil Bredesen urged Tennessee Democrats on Friday night to rally and turn what many forecast as a tough election year for the party into victories in the state House, Congress and governor.
"Let's get the facts straight," Vice President Biden said as he defended President Barack Obama's policies in areas ranging from the economy to health reform. "When the Democrats took control, we were a nation on the verge of depression."
Charging the Obama administration was "handed a bill for $1.3 trillion" when it took office in January 2009 "and a projected deficit, before we did a single thing, of $8 trillion," Mr. Biden drew cheers and laughs when he said having Republicans "moralize about deficits is like an arsonist moralizing about fire safety. These guys have zero credibility. Zero."
The vice president said he remains "confident that the people of Tennessee and this country are going to see the election as a choice, a choice between moving forward or moving backward, between government being on their side or on the side of special interests."
Mr. Gore likewise gave a spirited defense of the Obama administration during state Democrats' annual Jackson Day fundraiser.
"Listen, we're in a fight here, and let's not be poor-mouthing this. We have a great story to tell and a great record to defend," Mr. Gore said, castigating national Republicans for having "squandered" in eight years under President George W. Bush what had been the "biggest surplus in history."
Tennessee Republicans earlier in the day launched pre-event attacks with state GOP Chairman Chris Devaney welcoming the vice president "to a state he and President Obama lost by 15 percentage points in the 2008 elections."
He also questioned why Vice President Biden waited until the fundraiser to tour the aftermath of Tennessee's May floods. Moreover he said, "with Democrats facing an uphill battle this November, it's amazing they're going to parade a cast of characters who are on a downhill slide."
Gov. Bredesen, who is nearing the end of his second and final four-year term, urged Tennessee Democrats to speak "plainly" and "honestly" to ordinary families.
"If we can speak to their values and their needs, we will have served the nation well, and we will enjoy a long and successful run as a party," he said.
Tennessee Democrats used the event, which sold 2,300 tickets and by Friday morning raised about $400,0000, to showcase candidates such as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter, a West Tennessee businessman who is the son of former Gov. Ned McWherter. Tickets ranged from $50 to $5,000 for high rollers. The event was held at Belmont University's Curb Event Center.
Earlier, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester told fellow Democrats, "we're going to show Republicans the door in November. You can count on that."
Referring to Republicans' current control of the state House and state Senate, Mr. Forrester called the fall contests "the most important election in our lifetime. We are just two seats away from victory in the state House and with it the ability to stop the Republican madness we've witnessed."
Electing Mr. McWherter as governor and keeping the state's 6th and 8th Congressional Districts in Democratic hands are "incredibly important," he said.
Mr. McWherter stressed the need to create jobs. He got more response from the partisan crowd when he criticized the three major Republican gubernatorial candidates - Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.
"We need more than a candidate with a lot of cash and no substance," he said of Mr. Haslam, later charging "the voters in Tennessee are not going to support a guy who's going to price gouge them when they're at their most vulnerable."
It was a reference to the Haslam family-owned Pilot Corp. being forced to pay fines for violating the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act by overcharging for gasoline at prices up to $4.99 a gallon over a three-day period following Hurricane Ike in late 2008.
Late last year, U.S. Reps. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and John Tanner, D-Tenn., who respectively represent the 6th and 8th districts, abruptly abandoned their re-election bids as they faced surging anger from voters. Both men were honored Friday night.
Democrats also heard from U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., and Roy Herron, a candidate running to replace Rep. Tanner.