Vice President Joe Biden and Republican rival Rep. Paul Ryan in their debate. (Alex Wong / Getty Images )
Democrats who waited in vain last week for President Obama to hit Mitt Romney on his "47%" remark didn’t have to wait long for Vice President Joe Biden to pounce Thursday night in the one and only vice presidential debate.
At first opportunity in his face-off against Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Biden spouted off a long and rehearsed attack on the GOP ticket, casting them as hostile to the middle class and dismissive of nearly half of America.
Asked about the administration’s economy policy, Biden quickly pivoted to Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout.
“But it shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47% of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives,” Biden said, referring to Romney’s surreptitiously recorded remarks disparaging those who don’t pay federal income taxes.
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Then referring to Ryan as “my friend” -- a phrase Biden used throughout the night -- he took aim at a recent remark by Ryan. “My friend, recently in a speech in Washington, said 30% of the American people are takers,” Biden said.
Biden added he believed the “people he grew up with” paid their fair share in taxes.
Ryan also came ready to have the fight Romney and Obama never had in their recent debate.
“I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way,” Ryan said, getting a laugh from the audience, which had been instructed to be silent, at the expense of the gaffe-prone vice president.
“But I always say what I mean,” Biden shot back. “And so does Romney.”
“We want everybody to succeed. We want people to get out of poverty and into the middle class and into a life of self-sufficiency,” Ryan said.
If you believe Romney misspoke in that video, “I got a bridge to sell you,” Biden said.
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The spirited exchange was typical of a debate that quickly took on the pace of a scuffle between boys from the neighborhood. Both candidates were quick to show off their working-class credentials.
“Joe and I are from similar towns. He’s from Scranton, Pa.; I’m from Janesville, Wis.,” Ryan said. “You know, what the unemployment rate in Scranton is today? It’s 10%. You know what it was the day you guys came in? 8.5%. That’s how it’s going all around America.”
“That’s not how it’s going,” Biden answered. “It’s going down.”
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