Delaware Sen. Joe Biden missed a Nevada trip Wednesday due to Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid's request to stick around for key budget votes in the Senate, but said he'll be spending lots of time in this state in his bid for the presidency.
Biden said in a telephone interview that Nevada, with its Jan. 19 caucus, is a key state in the nominating process. He added that he's been familiar with the state's issues for years, rejecting criticism from the state's Republican Party that he's out of touch with Nevada.
"I've been dealing with Nevada issues since way back in the days of Howard Cannon," said Biden, elected to the Senate in the early 1970s when Democratic Sens. Howard Cannon and Alan Bible represented Nevada.
Agriculture and water rights are giant issues in my state," said Biden, adding, "We have the same kind of problem with nuclear waste that Nevada does. ... We have a big issue in preserving our farm lands."
"The interesting thing to me is, having been out to Nevada half a dozen times in the last 18 months, I don't find a single question I get asked to be any different when asked in Carson City or Sparks or Tupelo, Miss., or Iowa or New York City."
"Everybody is focused on the same primary issues. They're looking for somebody who has breadth and depth in national security," said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "They want to talk about health care, about the whole issue of energy independence. They want to talk about the environment and education."
Biden also said he's confident about remaining in the presidential race even though an upcoming campaign finance report will show him with just "$3 million or $4 million left in the bank."
He added he can raise another $25 million which will get him through the early caucuses, including Nevada's Jan. 19 caucus. After that, he added, whoever emerges as the leading Democrat "is going to be able to raise all the money they need. It'll be coming in over the transom."
Biden also continued to push his plan to divide Iraq along ethnic lines, with a central government responsible for border security and allocation of oil. He's a co-sponsor of legislation to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by next March.
Besides missing a state AFL-CIO event and a local Democratic gathering Wednesday in Carson City, Biden won't be among a lineup of Democratic presidential hopefuls at two major union events Friday and Saturday in Las Vegas.
Campaign spokeswoman Annie Tomasini said Biden "had a family commitment that was on the books" and prevented him from being in Las Vegas.