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September 02. 2014 7:49PM

VP Biden to visit Portsmouth shipyard on Wednesday

Vice President Joe Biden will visit the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard today to focus on “workforce engagement.”

The trip will be joined by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., and U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree, both Democrats from Maine.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employs about 4,700 civilian workers.

The visit — and certain hobnobbing with Granite Staters — prompts discussion of a potential Biden run for the White House in 2016. He brushed aside such questions in his last visit to New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation primary.

The question remains: “Ready for Joe?”

While Hillary Clinton supporters rally behind a “Ready for Hillary” PAC — which is not authorized by the former secretary of state — New Hampshire Democrats are ready to welcome Biden as one of the party’s standard-bearers.

“His visit helps the entire ticket,” said Peter Burling, a Democratic National Committee member for New Hampshire. “He’s flying the flag for New Hampshire Democrats.”

State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, said Biden’s visit shows the importance of the state in the midterm elections, as well as its traditional role as the leadoff primary state.

D’Allesandro has supported Clinton before; he is not, at this early stage, officially supporting anyone. “We’ve seen a lot of action,” he said of visits from potential Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls. “It’s good for New Hampshire.”

Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said Biden’s election-year impact locally may be blunted by a drop in public opinion.

“The fact is, neither Biden or his boss are popular enough now nationally to move the needle in New Hampshire politics,” Scala said.

Scala said Biden may also be keeping his options open as far as 2016 goes. If Clinton does not run, Biden could likely be the best-known Democrat in the field, he said.

The shipyard is located in Kittery, Maine, but it remains a major employer in the New Hampshire Seacoast area.

Shaheen, in a statement, said the shipyard “plays a critical role in our national security interests as well as in our regional economy.”

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, will not attend because of a previously scheduled event. Her office released this statement: “While Senator Ayotte’s office was not notified of the vice president’s visit until Friday, by which time her schedule was already planned, she hopes the vice president’s opportunity to observe firsthand the outstanding work performed at the shipyard will underscore the vital importance of the yard and its skilled workforce to our national security — and discourage the administration from continuing to pursue another base realignment and closure round.”

dtuohy@unionleader.com


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