KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)— Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed himself a “strong, strong ally” of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill on Monday while helping raise tens of thousands of dollars for her re-election campaign and other Democratic efforts.

Biden headlined a private fundraiser at a home in Kansas City, where he spoke passionately for more than a half-hour, praising McCaskill and criticizing Republicans. A former senator from Delaware, Biden described McCaskill as the “toughest, most principled person in the United States Senate.”

“I’m a strong, strong ally of hers,” Biden said. “She knows who she is and what she believes in, and she’s willing to take risks to fight for what she believes in.”

McCaskill’s campaign declined to say how much money she raised. But the campaign said 160 people attended, with each contributing at least $500.

That would put the minimum fundraising haul at $80,000, though contributors could have given significantly more. The money was being split among McCaskill’s campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the federal campaign account of the Missouri Democratic Party.

Republicans also sought to capitalize on Biden’s visit to Missouri.

“Now that Claire McCaskill has chosen to stand with the current administration …  I think that does provide a very stark choice and a very stark contrast for us all to consider,” said state House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, who joined other Republican officials at a Kansas City news conference to highlight McCaskill’s ties to President Barack Obama’s administration.

Obama, then a senator from Illinois, headlined a rally for McCaskill in Kansas City in October 2006 during her initial Senate race. After Obama declared his candidacy for president, McCaskill — then a senator from Missouri — was one of his earliest supporters. She later voted for two of Obama’s most prominent legislative accomplishments — the 2009 stimulus act and 2010 health care law — but also has occasionally split with his administration and has criticized spending earmarks embraced by many fellow Democratic senators.

McCaskill is unopposed in the Aug. 7 Democratic primary and will face the winner of a Republican race that includes St. Louis area businessman John Brunner, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman of Rolla and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of suburban St. Louis. All three Republicans have vowed to try to repeal Obama’s health care law and have highlighted McCaskill’s ties to Obama, who narrowly lost Missouri in 2010 and has not aired any ads in the state this year.

On Monday, however, the Republican candidates were focused largely on their own campaigns. Brunner was campaigning in suburban St. Louis. Steelman was campaigning in rural western Missouri, including some of the outer suburbs of Kansas City. She also began airing a TV ad Monday that highlighted her rural roots while noting Brunner was from St. Louis. Akin did not have any public campaign events Monday.

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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