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Thursday, July 12, 2012 - Page updated at 06:00 p.m.

Biden, in Seattle, backs Cantwell

By Theodoric Meyer
Seattle Times staff reporter

Vice President Joseph Biden criticized Mitt Romney and the Republican Party on Monday at a fundraiser for Sen. Maria Cantwell in Seattle, calling the presidential hopeful "George Bush on steroids" and lampooning the GOP's foreign policy as "right out of the Cold War."

Biden, who spoke to a crowd of about 1,000 downtown at the Westin Seattle Hotel, praised Cantwell, who is heavily favored to win re-election in November, and emphasized her humble roots.

"This is a woman who, like me, was the first in her family to go to college," he said.

Romney, Biden continued, "dug into his trust fund to go to college," drawing laughs.

"There's nothing wrong with that," he added quickly, perhaps remembering that he was addressing a crowd that paid up to $250 for VIP tickets; general admission went for $50.

Cantwell, in turn, applauded Biden as a "progressive rock star" for his support of same-sex marriage.

Biden's remarks followed a speech by President Obama at the White House Monday afternoon in which he implored Congress to immediately extend the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year. Biden kept up the theme in Seattle, criticizing Romney's support for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan and the GOP's call to extend the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans, too.

Biden also attacked Republicans on social issues. "Gov. Romney and this new Republican Party — they have a social policy right out of the 1950s," he said, accusing Romney of opposing Planned Parenthood and the GOP of trying to restrict women's access to birth control.

Local Republicans, for their part, didn't wait for Biden's plane to land to lash into him.

"While never knowing what gem might come out of Biden's mouth makes him a lot of fun, he certainly isn't someone who is going to help Washington with job growth and the economy," Kirby Wilbur, the Washington State Republican Party chairman, said in a statement.

The crowd at the Westin seemed to enjoy the vice president's gems, though. "Be careful," Biden said amid chants of "Joe, Joe, Joe," as he took the stage. "I won't go home!"

Cantwell is seeking her third term in office. She faces a field of challengers that includes Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, of Spokane.

Before coming to Seattle, Biden headlined a fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in Kansas City, Mo. He headed to Las Vegas Monday evening.

Biden's wife, Jill Biden, also was in Seattle, where she attended an event highlighting a South Seattle Community College program that trains students in high-demand technical fields.

Theodoric Meyer: 206-464-2985 or Twitter: @theodoricmeyer.

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