Phillip Sellinger knows what drives Sen. Robert Menendez and Vice President Joe Biden.
And, the rest of the area also knows what drives at least President Barack Obama's second-in-command: a motorcade from Newark Liberty International Airport.
It was from the airport that Biden was transported late Monday afternoon to the Morris Township home of Sellinger and his wife, Barbara, for .
The cost per ticket to this invitation-only event? One thousand dollars, according to the news media pool report provided by Matt Friedman of The Star-Ledger, the only member of the press allowed into the fundraiser (under the condition that he share his notes with the rest of the media). VIP reception tickets would set you back $5,000. According to the Menendez campaign, about 140 people attended, with the take reaching about $400,000.
Some of the Democrats in attendance included Democratic State Chairman and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, State Sen. Barbara Buono, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, former state Senate Majority Leader Bernie Kenny and Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty.
Out back on the patio of the Sellinger's large, old mansion—dubbed "Sunnymede"—on Old Glen Road, Phillip Sellinger, a managing shareholder for the GreenbergTraurig law firm, in Florham Park, introduced Menendez, who gave brief remarks before Biden's 23-minute speech.
Sellinger recounted Menendez’s career, his upbringing in Union City, his years as a local official, congressman and senator.
“We know what drives these two men," he said. “They come from Scranton. They come from Union City. And they believe in people.”
Menendez, who is seeking a second full term as senator, called the vice president a familiar face in New Jersey. “In the midst of a presidential campaign for re-election with a lot of obligations to President Obama, I’m thrilled," he said.
The senator spoke of a committee conversation with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in 2008, just as "The Great Recession" was taking hold.
“That was September of 2008," Menendez said. "Before we had an election in November of 2008, before President Obama and Vice President Biden took the oath of office in late January of 2009, we had millions of jobs lost, we were having two wars waged abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan, both unpaid for, with the next generation of Americans footing the bill. We had a tax policy that drove us to so much loss in the federal treasury and a non-growing economy. And a market that was not a free market but a free-for-all market.
“From a nation that was on the verge of a new depression to a nation that now sees positive growth in its GDP,” Menendez said. “Certainly we have a lot more to do but we are headed in the right direction.”
The senator told those in attendance that, among the privileges he has had "is to be able to serve with Joe Biden, the senator for Delaware and chairman of the foreign relations committee.”
Of the Vice President, Menendez said Biden “has a greater portfolio, more engaged than any vice president I’ve seen. ... The vice president has been a tremendous voice for helping us find a better day.”
Biden told attendees he served with Menendez for about two-and-a-half years before he began campaigning for the presidency.
”You know sometimes when you meet somebody you don’t have to learn a lot of detail about them," Biden said. "As my mother would say, some people have that sixth sense, you just get it. I know that although we have different backgrounds—his Cuban immigrant parents and my Irish-American ancestry—we shared a lot in common.”
The vice president cited both men's upbringings in working class neighborhoods as an example. “A neighborhood where you grew up and even though there were tough times, it was a period of time when your mother and father could look at you and tell you everything was going to be alright and you believed them and they believed themselves,” he said.
“I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want to send their kid to college if that kid is able to go," Biden said. “I don’t get a sense listening to the rhetoric the other team is using that they literally understand. It’s about dignity. It’s about respect.
“This guy knows why he got sent down there and he’s willing to risk losing to take care of those people," Biden said, referring to the middle class. “You never have to wonder where he stands. You never have to wonder about that. That’s one of the things I like about him. This used to be the norm when I first got to the Senate and it hasn’t been in the last 10 years.”
Among other kudos, the vice president said Menendez "was integral in passing the Recovery Act.
“We decided we needed to do something to deal with the auto industry, which was in free fall," Biden said. “It was incredibly unpopular, even among Democrats. But he stood up—he stood up—took a lot of crap. And where are we?
“I can tell you on behalf of the President of the United States, both he and I owe Bob. Not only the country owes him, we owe him,” Biden said.
Of the senator's bid for re-election, Biden said Menendez was going to win but, "it's not going to be easy.
"My guess is you’re going to have a governor and a lot of people working really hard to make sure you’re not re-elected," Biden said, referring to Republican Gov. Chris Christie. "So I don’t take this race for granted. But I can tell you we’re going to win.”
At about 6:45 p.m., about 90 minutes after arriving, Biden left Sunnymede and Morris County.
Before he concluded his speech, the vice president spoke of his time working with Pres. Obama, saying he spends between four-to-six hours a day with him. “I literally do get to be the last guy in the room," he said.
“I watch this guy make decisions. I watch him make decisions. And I’m telling you, man, this guy is not only smart as hell, he is absolutely ready to make the decision and stand back and live with it. No whining," Biden said. “To me the best way to sum up the leadership of both Bob Menendez and the president: Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. Think about it.”