Biden to campaign in Florida through Wednesday

With Florida gleaming as the grand prize of the 2008 campaign, Democratic vice presidential contender Joe Biden will hunker down in the state for three of the last nine days of the race, beginning Monday.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a constant presence in Florida in the past few weeks, will campaign for McCain on Monday in Tampa and Orlando. The GOP is trying to use the Democrat-turned-independent to peel off moderate supporters and strengthen McCain's appeal in the Jewish community.

Biden is unlikely to draw the arena-sized crowds that turned out Sunday in Tampa and Orlando for Republican Sarah Palin, the first woman on the Republican ticket.

But for the Democratic Party, Biden is just the warm-up act for Wednesday's highly anticipated Orlando rally featuring nominee Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton. Obama will also touch base that day with the state's Democratic stronghold of Broward County.

Obama has risen in the polls in Florida and across the country in recent weeks, dovetailing his mantra of change with the economy's downturn. He began airing an attention-seeking, two-minute ad Sunday in several battleground states, including Florida, that twists the classic question once posed by Ronald Reagan.

'At this defining moment in our history, the question is not, `Are you better off than you were four years ago?' '' Obama says. 'We all know the answer to that. The real question is, `Will our country be better off four years from now?' ''

The two-minute ad reflects the Democratic campaign's substantial financial advantage in the homestretch of the race. South Florida voters are also receiving taped phone messages from Biden's wife, Jill, urging them to vote early at the polls before Election Day and to join the Democratic Party's unprecedented grass-roots operation.

In a sign of the campaign's confidence in Florida, Biden is planning forays into the Republican-leaning turf of New Port Richey, Ocala and Melbourne, before ending his bus tour Wednesday in the West Palm Beach area. It's the third trip to the state since the Democratic National Convention for the Delaware senator with long-standing ties to South Florida.

Biden is expected to continue the Democratic campaign's focus on the nation's economic turmoil. Faced with an onslaught of attacks charging that Democrats will raise taxes, Biden is likely to hit hard on the campaign's promise of tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000.