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Biden on Romney Jeeps-to-China claim: 'Have they no shame?'

October 29, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Joe Biden and Bill Clinton delivered a tag-team smack down of Mitt Romney on Monday, taking the Republican presidential nominee to task for a new television ad that they say misrepresents his position on the auto industry bailout and misleads voters about Chrysler’s auto production.

“This guy … pirouettes more than a ballerina,” Biden said at a rally here. “Ladies and gentlemen, have they no shame? … It’s an absolutely, patently false assertion.”

Democrats have been howling for days about Romney’s claim at a recent Ohio event that Jeep was “thinking of moving all production to China.” The statement was followed by a new paid advertisement in which the Romney campaign says he has a plan to help the auto industry and that the Obama administration “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”

The task fell to Clinton and Biden to amplify the Democrats’ response to Romney’s claim, at a rally in the heart of Ohio’s manufacturing-heavy Mahoning Valley. And each used characteristically blunt terms to do so.

The vice president said Romney’s claim was “bizarre,” and the latest sign the former Massachusetts governor will “say anything, absolutely anything, to win.”

Clinton, who addressed the crowd before Biden, said he had spoken about Romney’s claim Monday morning with President Obama, before the president returned to Washington after scrapping plans to participate in a joint rally in Orlando, Fla.

Obama told Clinton that it was the first ad that “hurt my feelings,” because the first new car he ever owned was a Jeep.

“Now it turns out, Jeep is reopening in China because they've made so much money here, they can afford to do it and they are going on with their plans here,” Clinton said. And he paraphrased a statement from Jeep parent company Chrysler, dubbing Romney’s ad “the biggest load of bull in the world.”

“They are roaring in America, thanks to people like the people of Ohio,” Clinton said.

A statement from Chrysler said the company “has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China,” but is “simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world's largest auto market.”

And while not referring specifically to Romney’s ad, the company said a “careful and unbiased reading” of a Bloomberg report that the ad cites “would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.”

Responding to the Biden remarks, Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said Romney’s support for steps that would have rescued the U.S. auto industry has been clear.

“The Obama campaign is less concerned with engaging in a meaningful conversation about his failed policies and more concerned with arguing against facts about their record they dislike. Ohioans see these desperate arguments for what they are, and will choose Gov. Romney’s positive agenda,” he said.

Biden was a fill-in for Obama, who was scheduled to speak here as part of a three-city swing Monday along with Clinton. Biden himself was to hold an event in Keene, N.H. Both men's plans were altered by Hurricane Sandy, with the president returning to Washington to focus on storm response, and Biden spending only a few hours in New Hampshire on Sunday before heading to Ohio while conditions there still allowed.

The change in plans made for an interesting dynamic, with the cool and folksy case from Clinton — who said at one point that Romney was “tying himself in more knots than a Boy Scout does in a knot-tying contest” — followed by an impassioned, blue-collar pitch from Biden, who described himself as “offended” and “frustrated” by Romney’s comments in which he described 47% of Americans as dependent on government and unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.

Despite the contrast in styles, Clinton seemed to genuinely enjoy Biden’s remarks, smiling along with him and occasionally laughing. At one point, Clinton even pumped his fist in affirmation as Biden railed against Romney’s “47%” comments. And Biden in turn repeatedly turned back and gestured to the former president.

Biden flew from Columbus into Youngstown for the event, and was heading back to Columbus on Monday afternoon aboard Air Force Two, despite the increasingly deteriorating conditions from Hurricane Sandy even as far west as Ohio.

The campaign announced shortly after the event that Biden was canceling scheduled stops Tuesday elsewhere in Ohio, as well as an event scheduled for Thursday in his hometown of Scranton, Pa. He has two events in Florida scheduled for Wednesday.

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michael.memoli@latimes.com
Twitter: @mikememoli

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