In Florida, Biden is Democrats’ validator-in-chief

Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz work the crowd at South Miami Whip ’N Dip on Friday. He ordered white chocolate chip. She ordered Snickers.
Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz work the crowd at South Miami Whip ’N Dip on Friday. He ordered white chocolate chip. She ordered Snickers. pmazzei@miamiherald.com

Vice President Joe Biden swung through Florida on Friday to do one of the things he does best: give a boost to Democrats in need of a a little validation from perhaps the most people-friendly Democrat in the country.

But he couldn’t pass up a chance to also tweak Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“I can’t figure out Mr. Trump,” said Biden, who made a forceful case against the New York celebrity developer at last week’s Democratic National Convention. “It’s true that when you’ve never run for public office before, going out there and, you know, getting on the biggest stage in the world, you’re bound to make mistakes. But … some of the things that he does and says sort of defy logic for me.”

The vice president was speaking to reporters outside the South Miami Whip ’N Dip, where he’d stopped for a scoop of white chocolate chip ice cream along with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. They were on their way to a Coconut Grove fundraiser to benefit her re-election campaign. (Wasserman Schultz ordered a Snickers scoop.)

Earlier Friday, Biden had collected checks — and enjoyed a helping of Southern food — with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in Tallahassee, as part of the Jupiter congressman’s U.S. Senate campaign.

“It’s really important that we win back the United States Senate, no matter what the outcome of the presidential,” Biden said at O’leans Café, across the street from Florida A&M University. He ordered fried chicken, black-eyed peas and mac-and-cheese to go.

“If we win Florida, I don’t see any path whatsoever for Mr. Trump to be able to make it,” Biden added later in South Miami. But, he warned, Democrats in the state should take “nothing for granted.”

He and Wasserman Schultz stumped far from her Broward County/Northeast Miami-Dade County district to avoid shutting down Interstate 95, Biden said, since the pair would later have to return to the Grove for the fundraiser. But Biden’s motorcade hurt traffic, anyway.

The vice president was supposed to raise money for Wasserman Schultz in June, but that event was called off after the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub. Since then, Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign as Democratic National Committee chairwoman after a cache of leaked emails exposed her staff as biased toward eventual nominee Hillary Clinton.

Despite the scandal, Biden heaped praise on Wasserman Schultz. He greeted her with a hug and a kiss on the cheek on the Miami International Airport tarmac.

“I’ve come for two reasons: to support my best friend in Congress — and to get fat,” he told reporters outside the Whip ’N Dip.

He cast Wasserman Schultz as a key player in Congress who sits on a budget committee and has the ear of the White House. He implied a new congressman — her well-funded primary opponent, Tim Canova — wouldn’t offer constituents the same political heft.

In Tallahassee, Biden also validated Murphy, who has been caught embellishing his résumé.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Biden said. “He’s smart as hell, No. 1. No. 2, he is a CPA, and No. 3, the fact that he worked in that area and it’s like, well, you know, two of the three years, or one of the three years — I mean, c’mon. It’s all part of the game.”

Things have changed since the last time Biden campaigned for Murphy, in May. Incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is now seeking re-election.

“It’s probable he’s going to be carrying a heavy load with Donald Trump,” Biden said. “Let me put it this way: I think Trump has to win this state by a clear majority in order for Rubio to be able to make it.”

Rubio’s campaign countered that Biden’s trip to see Murphy showed the Democrat needs help with “his struggling campaign.” Murphy’s chief Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando, accused Murphy of being “Obama’s Judas” and “the Obama administration’s worst Democratic wingman in Congress.”

Kristen Clark contributed from Tallahassee. Patricia Mazzei reported from Miami.