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Former Vice President Joe Biden stands at the podium with his wife Jill at the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner in Manchester on Sunday, April 30, 2017. (Dan Tuohy/Union Leader)

Biden tells Manchester crowd, ‘Guys, I’m not running’

MANCHESTER — Former Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at a major Democratic Party fundraiser in New Hampshire fueled talk of a 2020 race, but he was quick to dismiss the idea: “Guys, I’m not running.”

Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, opened their appearance Sunday night with an emotional thank you to those in the room at the Radisson Manchester for support after their son Beau died from cancer in 2015.

“So many of you were so good to our Beau,” he said. “And the way in which you wrapped your arms around us — you’ve been incredible.”

Biden said he would devote the rest of his life to his “moon shot” initiative at finding a cure for cancer. He said he is ready to raise money for the party and to do whatever he can to shape debate.

“What kind of country are we becoming? What kind of country do we want to be? And how do we get there?” he said as the keynote speaker at the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner.

It was his third time speaking at the fundraiser. He also attended in 2011 and in 1986. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, introduced Biden by noting his long and special relationship with the Granite State.

“We think of him as one of our own,” she said.

The party’s annual fundraiser celebrated the state’s all-female, all-Democrat congressional delegation. U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster also spoke.

They took turns addressing past party successes and future challenges with President Donald Trump in the White House and Gov. Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, at the State House.

“The resistance must persist, and that starts right here in New Hampshire and right now,” Hassan said.

Shaheen said Democrats have so far kept Trump from building an expensive wall along the border with Mexico, and have fought to keep the Affordable Care Act. She repeated calls for the President to release his tax returns, and for an independent investigation of any Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Granite Staters are tired of the partisanship and all of the rancor,” Kuster said.

Shea-Porter said the four were speaking as “one solid, political voice” in Washington to oppose the President.

Biden focused his remarks not so much on Trump, but on the greatness of America as a nation of immigrants, the importance of jobs and a strong middle class, and the tradition of political leaders putting aside differences to get things done.

“We have to remember to think big again,” he said. “We’ve always thought big, from the Hoover Dam to putting a man on the moon.”

Biden promoted some issues he’s worked on for decades, including equal rights, gay marriage, energy independence, higher education and public financing of elections. He said the debate among Democrats on being a more progressive party should have context. He noted that as a senator from Delaware he was ranked one of the most liberal senators.

“I take a back seat to no one,” he said. “I make no apology. None.”

Whether or not Biden runs in 2020, he will help build the party and raise campaign cash for Democrats, said Wayne Lesperance, a political science professor at New England College in Henniker.

“He brings rock star status to the party,” he said.

A “who’s who of Democrats,” as Lesperance put it, turned out for the fundraiser.

Steve Marchand, a former Portsmouth mayor running for governor in 2018, said the former vice president reflects what the party fights for.

“He connects with the full array of Americans in a way that few politicians can,” Marchand said.

Jeanie Forrester, chairwoman of the Republican State Committee, called Biden a voice of the past. “It’s so sad,” she said in a statement Sunday. “New Hampshire Democrats are clinging to the past and advocating rejected liberal policies. New Hampshire Republicans are focused on the future.”

The Democrats have held the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner since 1959, when it was just known as the 100 Club.

The Dunfey Kanteres Award, named for Walter Dunfey and E. Leo Kanteres to recognize lifetime work on behalf of the party, was presented to Rep. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua. The McIntyre-Shaheen Legacy Award was presented to John Knowles of Hudson in recognition of his and his late wife Mary Ann’s dedication to Democratic Party causes at the local, state and federal level. The party began the award in 2012 in honor of former U.S. Rep. Tom McIntyre and his wife, and Sen. Shaheen and her husband Bill, who is a Democratic National Committeeman.