BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden didn't waste any time addressing former Gov. Charlie Crist's switch from Republican to Democrat at the first of a pair of South Florida campaign stops Monday, where he blamed the GOP for abandoning the middle class.
"Hell, (Crist) didn't leave the Republican Party. It left him," Biden told a crowd of about 600 seniors at a Boca Raton retirement community, later saying "one political party in particular has changed so fundamentally that they don't view things from the same prism."
Crist is locked in a tight race against GOP Gov. Rick Scott in one of the most negative gubernatorial campaigns in Florida history. The two disagree on most major issues, including minimum wage, health care, climate change, gay marriage and medical marijuana.
Crist has campaigned recently with several Democratic Party heavyweights, including former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. On Friday, first lady Michelle Obama will headline a fundraiser for Crist at the Orlando-area home of former NBA star Grant Hill. President Barack Obama, however, hasn't been on a podium with Crist during the campaign.
Crist told several hundred supporters at the second stop at a Broward College campus, located in Florida's most heavily Democratic county, that he will need every vote there to win.
"You are the backbone of this campaign. We can't win without you," Crist said.
Biden focused on issues affecting the middle class and told the crowd that Crist supports increasing public education funds, expanding Medicaid to roughly 1 million Floridians and protecting the environment.
"No state in America is in more jeopardy on climate change than yours but you have a governor that says he's not convinced. What do you need to be convinced? Miami underwater?" Biden asked.
In an increasingly dirty race, Crist has said that Scott has no integrity, constantly reminding voters that Scott's former hospital chain paid $1.7 billion in Medicare fraud fines and that Scott invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination during a civil lawsuit involving the hospital chain, Columbia/HCA. Crist has also tried to make Scott, a multimillionaire who spent $75 million of his and his family's money in campaigning four years ago, seem out of touch.
Scott has called Crist a do-nothing governor and run ads accusing Crist of taking campaign contributions from Scott Rothstein, who was later convicted of running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, and of having ties to Jim Greer, the former state GOP chairman who pleaded guilty to stealing money from the party.
"Why is it all negative against Charlie? Because they don't want to debate the issues. ... When you don't want to debate, you attack," Biden said.
At the second stop, Biden added that with Crist, "it's not about left or right."
"It's about right and wrong. He's the kind of leader people in Florida need now."
At the retirement community, Biden touched on issues close to the senior crowd, warning that Republicans like Scott would jeopardize Medicare by turning it into a voucher program and reminding them of prescription-drug savings under President Obama's federal health law.
"This is the single most important governor's race in the United States of America," Biden said of the Nov. 4 election. "Make sure we win it."