Biden takes on role as campaigner-in-chief

Vice President Joe Biden has quietly taken over the role of campaigner-in-chief while President Barack Obama has juggled two wars, the national economic recovery and the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

Biden has participated in nearly 100 campaign events for Democratic candidates this election cycle.

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He has traveled thousands of miles around the country, from Texas to Washington state to Connecticut to Florida.

He has stumped and collected contributions for governors, mayors, House and Senate candidates and party fundraising committees.

This has allowed Obama to focus on the pressing issues of governance: unemployment in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, cleanup of the Gulf oil spill and a pending millitary offensive in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Biden attended a noontime fundraiser for Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) in Portland and an evening fundraiser with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in Atherton, a wealthy enclave of Silicon Valley.

On Friday, he will headline a second event for Boxer in Bel Air, a posh neighborhood of Los Angeles. It will be his 81st campaign event this election cycle, according to a schedule provided by the vice president’s office.

Biden has already inked nine more events on his political schedule through the end of September. These include a dinner in Nashville for the Tennessee Democratic Party on July 16, a fundraiser for Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley on July 19 and a fundraiser for Pennsylvania Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak (D) on Sept. 13.

Through the end of this week, Biden has participated in 19 events to help Democratic Senate candidates.

The list of beneficiaries include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Patty Murray (Wash.), plus candidates Rep. Paul Hodes in New Hampshire, Lee Fisher in Ohio and Alexi Giannoulias in Illinois.

A February fundraiser at the Westin hotel in Seattle raised more than $500,000 for Murray's reelection campaign.

“Biden’s been everywhere,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor with The Cook Political Report. “He has an affinity for the Senate, he likes to campaign and he’s got a little more time than the president.”

Duffy noted that campaign donations raised for candidates by the president and vice president save the national campaign committees from spreading their funds too thin.

An array of complicated challenges has consumed Obama’s first 18 months in office. In addition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the domestic economic recovery and the oil spill, Obama has tried to push an ambitious legislative agenda through Congress.

The president has not spent as much time on the campaign trail.

Obama held two fundraisers for Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in February. He traveled to California in April and May to raise money for Boxer. He flew to Nevada in February and May to campaign and raise money for Reid and the Democratic National Committee.

Obama also appeared as the star guest for a fundraiser for Specter in Philadelphia in September.

The president has done less for House candidates.

Obama appeared at a campaign event for several candidates in Indiana last year. This year he appeared at a campaign fundraiser for Reps. Mark Schauer and Gary Peters in Michigan.

“The president and vice president have very important roles,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic political consultant. “They are the people who can most quickly and easily and inexpensively provide tremendous resources for a campaign. That is the first and foremost role.”

A fundraiser that Obama held for Boxer in April was estimated to collect $3.5 million.

Obama and Biden hit the campaign trail this week to help Senate candidates as the playing field of competitive races has expanded to include California, Washington and Wisconsin.

Obama traveled to Missouri on Thursday to raise money for Robin Carnahan, then flew to Las Vegas later in the day to headline a 3,000-person fundraiser for Reid at the Aria resort and casino.

Devine said that Obama is a more effective weapon in Senate races because they are more expensive and must appeal to a broader swath of the electorate.

“The House races are going to be decided in places where the president has a net unfavorable rating,” said Devine, referring to swing districts in rural Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alabama and other areas that make up Blue Dog country.

“Biden is a guy who in a lot of House races could be very effective as a Democratic surrogate speaking to targeted voters, swing votes, the white voters who are up for grabs.”

Biden held a fundraiser in Jeffersonville, Ind., for Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), policy co-chairman of the House Blue Dog Coalition, at the end of June. He held fundraisers for Reps. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Zack Space (Ohio) and Harry Mitchell (Ariz.), three other Blue Dogs, in the fall.

The Schrader fundraiser in Portland on Thursday was the 33rd campaign or fundraising event Biden attended for House Democratic candidates this cycle.

The vice president has attended fundraisers with 38 House candidates.

A Democratic aide said only Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has done more.

“Other than the Speaker, the VP is the prolific Democratic campaigner,” said the aide.

Democrats from all over the country and the ideological spectrum have sought Biden: Reps. Steve Driehaus (Ohio), Harry Teague (N.M.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Steve Israel (N.Y.), Betsy Markey (Colo.) and Robert Brady (Pa.) and Illinois candidate Dan Seals.

He began the cycle in March of 2009 with a campaign kick-off event in Little Rock for Lincoln. He then attended six Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraisers all over the country — from St. Louis to Houston to Denver to New York — in the span of two and a half months.

Biden has attended a total of 13 DNC fundraisers this cycle and has two more scheduled in Chapel Hill, N.C., in July.