Vice President Joe Biden congratulated Rep. Paul Ryan on Monday, but at… (Jay LaPrete / Associated…)
DURHAM, N.C. – It’s no longer two against one, with Romney and Ryan now matched against Obama and Biden. But in his initial salvo against his Republican counterpart, Vice President Joe Biden argued that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were indistinguishable when it comes to policies he said would hurt the middle class.
Biden shared with an audience of a few hundred here that he called to congratulate Rep. Paul Ryan after his selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate Saturday, and they agreed that the choice before voters now would be a stark one. And he praised Ryan in a way that doubled as an attack on the GOP’s presidential hopeful.
“Congressman Ryan has given definition to the vague commitments that Romney’s been making,” Biden said. “There is no distinction between what the Republican Congress has been proposing and what Gov. Romney wants to do.”
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That effort to link Romney with an unpopular House Republican majority had been a staple of the Obama campaign as it ramped up against the former Massachusetts governor this spring. His choice of Ryan, however, has revived that focus, as Biden made clear here.
First, the vice president took issue with the notion that Ryan’s budget blueprint, one that he said Romney had embraced, was “gutsy.”
“What’s gutsy about gutting Medicare, Medicaid and education?” Biden asked. It’s not only not a bold, new plan, he added: “It’s not fair” to the middle class, and a repeat of failed policies from the Bush administration.
He quoted Ryan as saying Saturday that the GOP ticket would “restore the dreams and greatness of this country.”
“What he didn't say that the very plans he voted for, what Romney has supported, put America's greatness at jeopardy. How do they think we got in this mess in the first place?” Biden added.
“As my little granddaughter would say, was it Casper the Ghost who came along and did this? Who did it?”
Biden also used Ryan to hold Romney accountable for what he termed as “obstructionism” on the part of House Republicans, voting against Obama initiatives that he said would have spurred further job growth.
The choice of Ryan seemed to inject more fire into an already feisty campaigner in Biden. And while the Wisconsin congressman afforded him new material, there were signs that the Democrats would keep their sites on Romney, as Biden repeated previous attacks on Romney’s wealth and business record.
Biden was introduced by the head of a nearby T-shirt design company, who said the president’s policies have put life back in the state’s sagging manufacturing sector. And in a clear reference to Romney, he said that despite economic distress his company “never outsourced our jobs. Our employees are our most valuable assets.”
For his part, Biden asked how Romney could call Obama out of touch when Romney had money in a “Swiss bank account.”
The Romney campaign shot back that Biden “doubled down on the same failed policies that have resulted in skyrocketing debt, higher taxes and record job losses.”
“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan understand that our country is facing serious challenges that have been made worse by the Obama administration’s big government agenda,” Ryan Williams said.
The vice president opened three days on the road with the speech here in Durham, part of the so-called Research Triangle that is seen as a potent source of votes for the Democrats. Republicans contend the president will not be able to replicate his narrow 14,000-vote victory in North Carolina again, pointing to the party’s gains in the state since 2008 as evidence voters have turned against the Democrats.
Obama has not been to the Tarheel State since April, when he came to the University of North Carolina as part of his bid to pressure Congress to extend low interest rates on some student loan programs. The first lady was in Greensboro earlier this month.
The party is focusing heavily on its field organization in the state. To build the grassroots organization, the campaign is rewarding volunteers who spend nine hours working for the president with a guaranteed seat at his convention speech in Charlotte next month.
“Voter registration is a must!” Rep. G.K. Butterfield, whose district will now include the city after redistricting, told the crowd before Biden spoke.
Biden is set to travel Monday afternoon to southwest Virginia, where he’ll campaign through Wednesday.
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