This story was written by Lauren Baker, Independent Florida Alligator
Less than 48 hours before Election Day, about 4,500 people gathered on the Reitz Union North Lawn to hear Sen. Joe Biden as part of the Obama campaigns final push through Florida.
Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and his wife, Jill, were introduced by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to a Gatorchomping crowd. Biden, donning a Gator cap upon entrance, was accompanied by his son, Hunter, and oldest granddaughter, Naomi.
Despite a drizzle, the crowd remained cheery before Biden took the stage at about 4:40 p.m., holding signs with slogans such as Bidens my favorite Joe and grooving to songs such as Celebration. ObamaBot waved its arms in rhythm as it rolled around the crowded arena.
Jill Biden, a longtime teacher, spoke of her husbands commitment to family, public service and education before the vice presidential hopeful addressed the crowd.
An alumnus of the University of Delaware, Biden told the crowd he watched the Gators beat the Dawgs on Saturday. I thought, Thank God we dont play the Gators, he said.
Amid cheers, boos and a chant of Jill, baby, Jill, Biden spoke for nearly 30 minutes about Sen. Barack Obamas presidential goals, which he said include strengthening middleclass America, regaining international respect and ending the Iraq war.
Im here with a simple message: Change is on the way, he said.
Biden bundled McCains goals with the failed economic and foreign policies of President George W. Bush, adding that McCain was guilty of Karl Rove politics. They have called Obama every name in the book, he said, adding that Mr. President would join the list come Tuesday.
Biden also brushed off Dick Cheneys recent endorsement of McCain, citing support Obama has received from financial tycoon Warren Buffet and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Some attendees trickled into the arena at about 1 p.m., entertained off and on by members of a jazz band, who played for free but said they would be reimbursed by a photo with Biden.
Throughout Bidens speech, about 25 students supporting McCain waved Republican campaign signs and a yellow Gadsden flag, used during the Revolutionary War, by the back fence of the arena.
It stands for preserving liberty, said Bryan Griffin, UF College Republicans chairman, of the flag, adding that Obamas policies would strip Americans of some liberties, such as choosing how to spend their money.
Not all Republicans were there to protest. I wanted to see the next vice president of the United States, said Josh Simmons, Gators for McCain chairman.
Simmons said he voted for Obama about two weeks ago. Ive seen a different John McCain than the one I signed up to work for, he said.
Simmons said he submitted his resignation Sunday night and will no longer be chairman for the group, which has more than 1,000 members.
I expect them to be incredibly pissed off, he said.