Updated Sat, Sep 8, 2012 8:21 pm
Democratic Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the Athens Community Center Saturday afternoon was one that many area residents, able to get a ticket to the event, won’t soon forget.
“My little brother was actually in the front row, he’s in eighth grade, and I texted him and told him to tell Biden that our family loves him. And he did that and they hugged and embraced and I was standing up in the stands and for some reason, I was just overcome with emotion. I was just crying a few seconds ago,” said Will Drabold, an Ohio University freshman.
The crowd of 675, the vast majority of which were Obama-Biden supporters, packed into a room in the left corner of the Community Center to get their chance to see the vice president.
Even before Biden spoke the crowd was buzzing with excitement and expectation.
“That’s one of the perks about being in Ohio. Even with all the campaign ads, They’ll come visit a lot,” said Moriah Karwec, an Ohio University undergraduate student.
Biden last visited Athens in October 2008 as the vice presidential nominee. This time he had the official title.
“It seems to be more intense. At this point there is actually a difference between a candidate and the actually a sitting vice president,” noted Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl (D-Athens).
Some in the crowd remembered what it was like when Biden came as a nominee.
“I went when he came a few years back, when I was a freshman, and I really enjoyed a lot of what he had to say. And it had a lot of impact on making me want to vote even more,” said Russell Morrow, an Ohio University graduate student.
“He was awesome and I think he was even better than he was last time,” said Dr. Francine Childs, a former Ohio University professor.
Biden focused his address on healthcare, the bailout of the auto-industry and tax reform.
One subject that seemed to resonate most with the crowd was the way Biden related himself to Southeastern Ohio.
“I think his familiarity with this area and his fondness for southern Ohio and the OU area. I liked to see that,” said Brian Blair, of Hocking County.
“I’m glad he appreciates his base. We’re solid blue here and it shouldn’t be a problem, but the fact is, just for him to meet everybody and see what’s going on in southeast Ohio,” said Wiehl.
Biden also criticized the Republican ticket heavily to draw a distinct difference between the Obama campaign and the Romney campaign.
“I think (President Obama) has taken a lot of unfair criticism and I think Biden has as well and, frankly, I think they’re fed up with it. And it’s good to finally see Democrats fighting,” said Drabold.
The vice president garnered several emotional responses after his speech.
“He is wonderful. He’s compassionate. I mean, the contrast between him and the Republicans couldn’t be clearer,” said Dana Carlson, an Athens resident.