Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Reno, Nev. (Cathleen Allison / Associated…)
RENO, Nev. -- Vice President Joe Biden accused the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul D. Ryan of advocating "blackmail" for insisting on continuing the so-called Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, rather than continuing them only for middle-class taxpayers.
"Folks, that's blackmail," Biden told a cheering crowd of supporters in Reno. "That's blackmail."
It was one of many tough lines Biden delivered in the course of his speech in this battleground state, where polls have shown the race tightening substantially in recent weeks. He repeatedly charged that the Republican nominees are "out of touch" with the concerns of ordinary Americans, and mocked Romney for saying he had "binders full of women" when he was hiring staff as governor of Massachusetts.
INTERACTIVE: Battleground states map
Biden noted that Romney was asked in Tuesday's presidential debate with President Obama whether he supported equal pay for women. "He started by talking about binders," the vice president said, his tone incredulous. "Binders. ... Binders! Folks, talk about out of touch. And he never did answer the question of whether women are entitled to equal pay for equal work."
Biden said he and Obama are "absolutely, positively committed" to making sure that women are given equal opportunities.
The crowd of about 1,000 people, packed in a ballroom in downtown Reno, roared at many of Biden's jabs. His references to Romney's statements were often met with shouts of "malarkey!" -- the term Biden used more than once during his debate with Ryan.
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams responded to the vice president’s remarks by saying that Biden “showed voters that the Obama campaign can only offer misleading attacks instead of a discernible vision or plan for a second term.”
With its six electoral votes, Nevada is not as important a prize as such battleground states as Ohio, Florida or Virginia, but both campaigns have lavished significant resources on the race here.
This was Biden's fourth trip of the year to Nevada and the eighth since he was elected vice president, according to his campaign. Obama and Biden once led by as much as 9 percentage points in Nevada, but that has dwindled to 3 points in the two latest polls, making the race a statistical dead heat.
Reno and surrounding Washoe County are considered the swing region of Nevada, with the closest balance between Democrats and Republicans in the state. Las Vegas, with its heavy union influence, leans Democratic, and the rural balance of the state tends to vote overwhelmingly Republican. Las Vegas and Reno have seen some of the heaviest saturation of political advertising in the country.
With its tolerance of legalized gambling and prostitution, Nevada has always displayed a distinct libertarian streak, and even its Republicans tend to be relatively liberal on social issues. Biden spent much of his speech talking about women’s issues, including abortion and contraception, and lambasted Romney for saying he would cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
Biden supporters in the crowd seemed buoyed by Obama's assertive performance in the second debate, raising a deafening cheer when the vice president declared, "Hey, how about that president last night!"
Before the speech, Jim Edgemon, 76, said of the president: "I thought he did what he should have done the first time."
Edgemon said he moved to Reno four years ago from Wolfeboro, N.H., where Romney has a summer home, and he takes a dim view of the former Massachusetts governor. After the president's lackluster performance in the first debate, Edgemon said he was "livid" and sent an email to Obama at his campaign headquarters.
In it, Edgemon said, he reminded the president of the saying of the late baseball manager Leo Durocher: "Nice guys finish last."
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