WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden made an impassioned appeal to the nation’s oldest civil rights group Thursday, calling on members to rally behind the first black president and reject a Republican vision for the country that he said would roll back progress for minorities.
Speaking at the NAACP conference in Houston a day after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appeared there, Biden delivered a sharp rebuttal to Romney’s contention that his policies would be better for black families than President Obama’s have been at a time when black unemployment stands at 14.4 percent.
Biden sketched out what he said is the GOP’s hostile position toward the middle and working classes on voting rights, health care, taxes, and education to argue that Romney would be detrimental to African-Americans.
‘‘Did you think we’d be fighting these battles again?’’ Biden said. ‘‘I didn’t think we’d be back.’’
Indeed it was. Polls show that black voters overwhelmingly support Obama, even if they are frustrated by unemployment, which is far higher among African-Americans, and by the economy.
The atmosphere in the ballroom appeared to reflect that the crowd was not overtly upset that Obama had chosen not to address the convention this year and sent Biden to represent him. Whereas Romney drew three sets of boos from the same audience, Biden received a warm welcome.
Before Biden spoke, Obama addressed the audience through a video message. The president told the crowd his administration is committed to a country where ‘‘no matter who you are or what you look like or where you come from, America is a place where you can make it if you try.’’ Of the economic struggles, Obama declared that the mission is to ‘‘not just recover from the recession but reclaim the security so many Americans have lost.’’
On Wednesday, Romney had told the NAACP that Obama had failed in his bid to restore prosperity and security.
‘‘If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him,’’ Romney said, drawing boos.
Biden countered with a passionate and, at times, folksy style, playing to the crowd by giving a shout-out to friends in the Delaware delegation and recalling his work on voting rights during his time on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Although black voters overwhelmingly support Obama, the president’s campaign is eager to ensure a large turnout among African-Americans on Election Day.
Collins reaches record with 5,000th consecutive vote
WASHINGTON — As records go, this is about as good as it gets in Washington: Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, cast her 5,000th consecutive vote on Thursday, earning her the third-longest voting streak in Senate history.
Collins did not just luck into it. Keeping the streak alive has meant jumping off a plane on the verge of takeoff, twisting her ankle racing through the Capitol, and even delaying her wedding day to make sure she did not miss a vote.
The senator’s streak began on Jan. 22, 1997, when she voted to confirm Madeleine Albright as secretary of state. Collins’s second vote was to confirm William Cohen — her predecessor in the Senate — as defense secretary.
On Thursday, she crossed the 5,000 mark on a vote to table an amendment to a tax cut bill. Collins stood at her desk in a lilac-colored suit, said ‘‘No’’ when her name was called, then sat down. She later beamed as fellow senators gave her a standing ovation in recognition of her feat.
Among active senators, Collins trails only Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, who has cast roughly 6,450 consecutive votes since 1993. Collins, 61, and Grassley, 80, are unlikely to match former senator William Proxmire, a Wisconsin Democert, who answered 10,252 consecutive roll calls between April 20, 1966, and Oct. 18, 1988, according to the Office of the Senate Historian.
Collins vowed to maintain the streak after realizing after her first two years that she had not missed a vote. She once twisted her ankle as she raced from a committee meeting to make a roll call, and in March 2010, she and Senators Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, and Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, jumped off a departing US Airways flight to make it back for an unannounced vote.
She even made fiance Thomas Daffron wait a few more weeks before tying the knot during the monthlong August recess.
Michelle Obama set to visit New Hampshire in August
CONCORD, N.H. — The Obama campaign says Michelle Obama will be visiting New Hampshire next month.
She plans to campaign for her husband in the state at two events on Aug. 2. More details are expected to be disclosed soon.