LEE'S SUMMIT — Democrat vice presidential candidate Joe Biden made a last-minute pitch for swing-state Missouri on Monday, vowing that he and Barack Obama would "re-establish the middle class" by focusing on job creation and helping homeowners facing foreclosure.
"For too many families who are working hard, playing by the rules ... people can see it slipping from their grasp," Biden told a crowd of about 1,500 at the Longview Community College Recreation Center south of Kansas City. "We are on the cusp of a new brand of leadership."
On the eve of the election, Biden — introduced by his wife, Jill — highlighted the nation's financial crisis and said Obama would offer a three-month moratorium for homeowners facing foreclosure. He also jabbed Republican Sen. John McCain, saying there was "literally not one fundamental economic difference between John McCain and George Bush."
He later repeated a sarcastic barb about the Republican ticket of McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"Hey, maverick. Hey, maverick," Biden said to roars of laughter. "I mean, give me a break.
"I don't think they're mavericks. I think they're sidekicks."
Biden got perhaps the loudest response when he banged his fists on the podium in declaring that Obama would end the war in Iraq.
"End it, we will," he said. "We will end it responsibly, but end it we will."
Monday's political schedule across the state underscores how important Missouri and its 11 electoral votes are to both parties.
Democrats have focused much of their firepower on big-city suburbs, areas that analysts see as key to overcoming McCain's perceived grip on rural Missouri.
Later in St. Charles, Hillary Clinton told a crowd of several hundred packed into a room in a conference center that Obama needs their support to win the White House.
"I'm here for a very simple reason," the New York senator and Obama's rival in the Democratic primaries said. "This state is close."
Clinton said that under George W. Bush, American's deficit has skyrocketed, jobs have been lost, young people have grown cynical. That's in stark contrast, she said, to the years when her husband, Bill Clinton, was in the White House.
"America will rise again under President Obama from the ashes of the Bushes if you give us a chance," she said.
Clinton's appearance in St. Charles was evidence of how Democrats are going hard after areas long dominated by Republicans.
St. Charles County has been one of the nation's fastest-growing regions over the last two decades and now has about 340,000 residents, making it Missouri's third-largest county, behind St. Louis and Jackson counties. Nearly 59 percent of the county's voters supported George W. Bush in 2004.
Missouri has backed the winning presidential candidate in every election but one since 1904, a fact not lost on Clinton.
"Missouri has a reputation for picking a winner, so I want you to be on the right side," she said.
Palin addressed a Republican crowd in Jefferson City on Monday, and at Biden's appearance, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill didn't pass up the chance to get in a dig.
"Barack Obama chose the very best person in the country that could be president of the United States," McCaskill said. "And well, let's just say John McCain didn't."