Former Vice President Joe Biden, a possible presidential front-runner in 2020, reportedly delivered a speech shortly before the 2018 midterms that may have helped an incumbent GOP candidate retain his congressional seat.
Biden allegedly received $200,000 for a November 2018 speech in Benton Harbor, Michigan to a Republican-leaning audience in which he praised the state’s GOP Rep. Fred Upton who was in a tight re-election race, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The former vice president reportedly called Upton a champion in the fight against cancer and “one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with,” referring to the Republican’s support for a medical research law.
After the speech, local Democrats urged the former vice president to fix the damage they saw from how the GOP exploited his comments about Upton, who helped in 2017 to craft a bill to repeal Obamacare.
Biden reportedly declined to help with damage control. He may have contributed to Upton defeating his Democratic opponent by 4.5 percent of the vote.
It’s unclear how Democratic voters will respond to this report.
NewsOne reached out to the Democratic National Committee about the Times story but did not receive an immediate response.
The poll is considered an early indicator of the mood among Democrats. Iowa is the first state in the presidential nominating process. The winner has won the Democratic presidential nomination in six consecutive election cycles.
An organization named the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan, a business-focused group, organized the event. It received financial support in part from the Fredrick S. Upton Foundation.
Both organizations said Rep. Upton had no role in choosing who delivered the speech. However, he was in the audience when Biden spoke.
Eric Lester, who chaired the Democratic Party in Berrien County, Michigan during the 2018 midterms, called Biden’s supportive remarks about Upton a betrayal.
“It just gives Fred Upton cover and makes it possible for him to continue to pretend to be a useful, bipartisan fellow,” Lester recalled, adding, “I entered the hall with positive feelings about Mr. Biden and felt very frustrated.”