"It's the party that's slowly but surely being taken over by wackos," Rendell said, drawing laughter and cheers from the crowd. "We're going to turn the reins of Congress over to the people who are more and more dominated by the wacko wing? Of course not. So we have a lot to sell. We haven't done a good job selling it."
The Kaine-Rendell rally was part of a nationwide effort yesterday to re-energize the generation of first-time voters who elected Obama in 2008 in time for the Nov. 2 general election .
The effort faces many challenges in a year when the "enthusiasm gap" favors Republicans.
The crowd stared blankly at Rendell when he asked if they had read a recent Time magazine cover story on federal stimulus spending. He later dropped a reference to an Inquirer editorial on health-care reform, saying he realized the students probably also did not read that.
Kaine told the crowd that Obama needs "good partners to work with" in Congress to succeed. He accused the Republicans of "only offering obstruction" to efforts to create jobs and extend tax breaks for small businesses.
"They are more interested in positioning themselves in the next election than they are in positioning the American people for success in the next generation," said Kaine, adding that Republicans want to "turn back the clock" on legislation to reform health care and Wall Street.
Kaine rattled off what he considered radical agendas for GOP candidates who want to privatize Social Security, close the U.S. Department of Education and pull out of the United Nations.
Kaine targeted former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, the Republican running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, for his work on Wall Street, claiming that Toomey wants to protect wealthy special-interest groups. He also knocked state Attorney General Tom Corbett, the Republican nominee for governor, for claims that Corbett made this summer about laid-off workers turning down new jobs in favor of unemployment.
The Republican National Committee quickly mocked Kaine's speech as "White House spin" doomed to fail on Election Day.
"Voters won't buy Kaine's empty rhetoric and know full-well that reckless policies of more spending, bigger government and higher taxes from the Obama Administration and Democrats like [Toomey opponent, U.S. Rep.] Joe Sestak have failed Pennsylvania," the RNC said.
The Republican Party of Pennsylvania didn't wait for Kaine's speech, releasing a statement three hours before he reached the podium that touted polls showing Republicans eager, independents leaning toward the GOP and Democrats losing faith.
Kaine later said that the DNC is dumping money and staff into Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida to appeal to first-time 2008 voters to turn out on Election Day.
"I think this is a changeable electorate," Kaine concluded. "In a volatile time, people might not ultimately make up their minds until the very end."