Vice President Joe Biden praises Markey, criticizes GOP, says minority turnout may be low in Mass.

WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden, at a fundraiser in Washington tonight for Representative Ed Markey, was highly critical of the Republican Party even as he praised Markey and implored supporters not to take the Massachusetts election for granted.

“Ed Markey in the Senate is not a single vote. Ed Markey in the Senate is part of a movement,” Biden said at a fundraiser that raised $250,000 for Markey’s campaign. “Ed Markey in the Senate will command respect and attention the moment he stands on the floor to speak for the first time.”

The fundraiser, held at a private home in an expensive neighborhood in Washington, was also headlined by former Vice President Al Gore and Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

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Biden urged some 200 attendees not to assume Markey will win, saying “this is a strange moment” and that, without the president at the top of the ticket, minority turnout in Massachusetts might be low.

“There’s a big difference in this race,” Biden said. “Barack Obama’s not at the head of the ticket. And that means those legions of African Americans and Latinos are not automatically going to come out. No one has energized them like Barack Obama. But he’s not on the ticket. So don’t take this one for granted.”

During his remarks, Biden repeatedly praised Markey, saying “few have the quality of character, and intellect, and emotional IQ that Ed Markey has.” But he saved some of his most biting rhetoric for the Republican Party.

“It’s a pretty simple proposition: The United States of America, and the state of Massachusetts, does not need another Republican in the Senate,” Biden said. “I’m being straight about this. This is not your father’s Republican Party.”

“They’re not bad guys. They don’t get it!” Biden added at another point. “But Ed does. In his gut, Ed gets it.”

Biden was harshest when referring to two new Tea Party-backed senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.

“Think about this,” he said. “Have you ever seen a time when two freshman senators are able to cower the bulk of the Republican Party in the Senate? That is not hyperbole.”

Biden, who was the Obama administration’s point person on gun control legislation that failed in the Senate, said he called 17 senators, nine of whom were Republicans, to find out why they voted against the bill.

“Not one of them offered an explanation on the merits of why they couldn’t vote for the background check,” Biden said. “But almost to a person, they said, ‘I don’t want to take on Ted Cruz. I don’t want to take on Rand Paul. They’ll be in my district.’

“I actually said, ‘Are you kidding? These are two freshman,’” Biden added. “This is a different, party folks.”

The fundraiser was held on a near-cloudless night, with attendees dining on chicken, corn on the cob, and slaw in the backyard of the home of longtime political activist Esther Coopersmith. Among those in attendance were Cameron Kerry, the acting secretary of commerce; Ron Klain, the former chief of staff to both Biden and Gore; and former CBS sportscaster Lesley Visser.

Markey himself wasn’t there – he was debating Republican opponent Gabriel Gomez in Springfield – but Markey’s wife, Susan Blumenthal, did attend.

“Folks, Ed Markey has a distinct advantage over the rest of us: He has a psychiatrist for a wife,” Biden joked. “It’s not often noted, but it is very important. I can think of at least a half a dozen people who I wished had a psychiatrist for a wife.”

Biden said at one point that he encouraged Markey to run for US Senate, and he claimed that he said he would get involved in the Democratic primary race on Markey’s behalf.

Vicki Kennedy was one of the first to speak, turning to Biden.

She invoked her late husband, Ted Kennedy, a few times and she started by paying tribute to Coopersmith. She then turned to Biden (“Just one little world, Joe, if I could say: You are like EF Hutton in this town. When you speak, people listen. They really do”) and Gore (“In my house we still call him president”).

When Gore took the microphone, he praised Kennedy.

“Vicki you are so wonderful, everybody here knows it,” he said. “The light that just filed Teddy with his love for you – it was incredible, just incredible. We miss him a lot and we love you so much.”

Gore also recounted first meeting Markey when they were elected to the class of 1976, when they were both assigned to the House Commerce Committee.

“When all of us would wait for our chance to ask questions or make the salient points, we’d just try desperately to get in before Ed,” Gore said. “Because Ed has such as quick wit and such an amazing way with words—I can’t even count the number of times where I walked out of the committee room shaking my head thinking, ‘Why can’t I think of things like that?’”

Gore ticked off a series of issues that they both find important—technology, communications, digital networks, the environment—-and claimed, “Ed has been for so many years one of the greatest leaders that we’ve ever had.”

“He is the only member of congress to write legislation to fight global warming that passed either the House or the Senate – God bless him for that!” Gore said.