HAMMOND, Ind. — Two Joes, one stage.
That was the scene on Friday evening when former Vice President Joe Biden joined incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly for an early voting rally at the Hammond Civic Center. The rally brought about 2,300 prospective voters to the center in Northwest Indiana.
Openers at the rally included Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st District, the mayors of Gary and Hammond and former IU Basketball and current Pacers guard Victor Oladipo.
Biden spoke about Donnelly’s bipartisan record in the Senate. He joked that if he’d grown up in the same neighborhood as Indiana’s senior U.S. senator, Donnelly would’ve helped him out in a fight, even if it didn’t make a difference.
The former vice president also criticized a number of President Trump’s decisions, including his comments about “both sides” after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his praise of autocrats like Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Our silence is complicity,” Biden said.
The rally came three-and-a-half weeks before the midterm elections, in Lake County, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of Donnelly in 2012, when he last ran for Senate.
Biden did much of the talking, even reading the address of the courthouse in Hammond and urging the audience to vote early. Early voting in Indiana started Wednesday.
The former vice president told reporters in London, England earlier this week he was not planning to run for president in 2020, yet. Earlier in the rally, when Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott mentioned he’d “heard a lot of rumors” regarding Biden’s prospects, the crowd cheered.
“America is about ideas and ideals,” Biden said.
Vendors outside the Civic Center sold T-shirts proclaiming “Joe Biden 2020.”
Many of the speakers Friday evening praised Donnelly’s vote to preserve the Affordable Care Act. Biden criticized the ongoing lawsuit brought by 20 states, including Indiana, which he said threatened coverage of pre-existing conditions.
Juanita Camacho, a Hammond resident and IU graduate, attended the rally and said she planned to vote early, like the speakers were urging. She said the issue that motivates her the most as a voter and teacher is education.
“I think it’s most important that the elected officials remember their constituents,” Camacho said.
Anita Cox, another educator who teaches in Hammond, said she voted early and other issues that motivated her included the environment and a living wage.
“Pay inequity is astronomical,” Cox said.
Many in the crowd cheered when Biden spoke of his support for organized labor, a voting demographic in which Biden is popular. At least one man in the crowd donned a “steel strong” shirt, a reference to the industry which provides many of the jobs in this part of the state.
“Mr. vice president, people who go to work in the dark, and come home in the dark,” Donnelly said, repeating a common campaign talking point. “People who shower after work, rather than before work. In this town, in this county, you get an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay every time.”
As the rally ended, Donnelly urged everyone in the crowd to each bring five people to vote early. Putting his arm around Donnelly’s shoulder, Biden stepped back to the microphone, and added to Donnelly’s plea.
“Go spread the faith, now,” Biden said.