Vice President Joe Biden’s unannounced Clark County stop Tuesday night was designed to energize campaign volunteers who are working on get-out-the-vote efforts in the final two weeks before the election.
Biden visited Springfield — the first Clark County stop by any of the four candidates running for president or vice president this year — to deliver pizzas and talk with supporters after a campaign rally in Dayton with President Barack Obama.
Campaign officials say Biden’s visit here is part of an Ohio sweep to re-elect Obama and to encourage supporters to vote early.
Biden “has been discussing the stark choice in this election with Ohio voters — a choice between moving forward with a vision to create an economy that’s built to last or going back to the same failed top-down economic policies that crashed our economy and punished the middle class,” according to a campaign statement.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign also is working for votes in Ohio, specifically the southwest part of the state.
“We’re running a very aggressive campaign in the Miami Valley,” said Christopher Maloney, Ohio spokesman for the Romney-Ryan campaign. “Southwest Ohio will expect to see Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan over the next two weeks.”
Biden’s nearly 20-vehicle motorcade stopped traffic briefly along the route to Springfield, taking Interstate 70 to the Hampton Inn on West Leffel Lane, where he stayed for about an hour before leaving for locally-owned Catanzaro’s Pizza & Subs.
After greeting owner Joe Catanzaro and his 9-year-old grandson Nicholas, Biden picked up 15 large pizzas to take to the Obama For America office on Bechtle Avenue.
Biden returned to the counter to order a coconut cream pie after Catanzaro told the vice president it was his favorite.
Biden surprised between 80 and 100 excited Obama/Biden supporters, many of whom screamed and cried as he carried pizzas into the room.
The vice president plunged into the crowd, going through each row of supporters with hugs and kisses and posing for pictures.
Supporters such as Saundra Hill, from Piqua, burst into tears as Biden hugged her and clasped her hands. Hill said she canvased for the campaign before the 2008 election and has continued to do so.
Obama “is going to be the president again,” she said.
She said she deeply believes in the Obama/Biden ticket and that the visit only furthers her belief that Obama will be re-elected.
“This is such a fantasy, for them to talk and take pictures with us, and just to care about us common people,” Hill said. “We’re not important. We’re not millionaires. But it shows they just want to share with all of us and give us respect.”
Passerbyers such as Jason Barlow and his 3-year-old daughter Olivia stopped into the OFA office to meet the vice president after seeing the crowds.
“He’s a very charismatic individual,” said Barlow, who is also the president of United Autoworkers Local 402. UAW 402 represents workers at Navistar International Corp., which employs 850 people in Springfield.
His visit shows “that he’s in touch and he wants to reach out to all individuals in America, not just large donors in large cities but in Springfield,” Barlow said. “There weren’t people passing checks to him. These are individuals supporting him and Barack (Obama).”
Barlow said Biden praised the UAW, saying that without UAW in Delaware, he wouldn’t be where he is now.
Biden also stopped for personal talks with those at Catanzaro’s before his appearance at the local campaign office.
“Regardless of politics, it’s amazing the charm and personality these people bring,” owner Joe Catanzaro said. “We are really blessed.”
It was the first time a presidential or vice presidential candidate had stopped at the Dayton Avenue location, though Catanzaro met Bill Clinton on a campaign stop at their location at the City Market, now the Heritage Center.
At the campaign office, Biden shared stories about his upbringing, sharing life lessons from his parents.
His father told him “a lucky person gets up in the morning with both feet on the ground and knows what they have to do and think it still matters,” Biden said. “This matters.”
Supporters said they were told they were needed in Springfield to make calls to voters right after the president’s talk in Triangle Park earlier Tuesday, and then were surprised with Biden’s visit.
“This is so exciting,” said Phyllis Hale, from Tipp City. “I fell for this hook line and sinker.”