Vice President Joe Biden is stepping up attacks on Republicans as the party of "privilege" and defenders of an economy that is "rigged" against the middle class, while casting President Barack Obama as a champion of "the workers."
Biden's comments, coupled with the release of a 17-minute campaign film celebrating Obama's time in office, mark a clear ramp-up of the president's re-election push even before he knows for certain who his Republican challenger will be.
"Stated simply, we're about promoting the private sector. They're about protecting the privileged sector," Biden was to tell a United Auto Workers crowd Thursday morning in the pivotal battleground state of Ohio.
"We're a fair shot, and a fair shake. They're about no rules, no risk. And no accountability," Biden said, according to speech excerpts provided by the Obama campaign.
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Republicans were sure to assail Biden's comments—to be made in an 11 a.m. speech in Toledo—as another sign that the embattled Obama is betting his political fortunes on what they dismiss as "class warfare." And they've already mocked the campaign film with a fake poster.
"A campaign speech and Hollywood movie from the Obama campaign won't change the fact that family budgets in Ohio and across the country are being stretched by everything from food prices to soaring prices at the pump," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Thursday in a statement to Yahoo News.
"Voters have a clear choice this November, continue down Barack Obama's path of broken promises and failed policies, or change direction with new leadership committed to reversing the Obama agenda that has Americans worse off than they were four years ago," he added.
The vice president's blue-collar upbringing and plainspoken style make him a natural ambassador to woo back working-class voters who supported Obama in 2008 but are still struggling in the fragile U.S. economy. The speech also seeks to shift the election from a referendum on the president's time in office to a choice between Obama and his as-yet undetermined Republican challenger.
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"Ultimately that's what this election is all about. It's about a choice. A choice between a system that's rigged, and one that's fair. A system that holds someone who misleads investors as accountable as someone who misses a payment on a mortgage. A system that trusts the workers on the line, instead of just listening to the folks in the suites. That's a stark choice. To my mind it isn't a choice at all," Biden says in the excerpts.
A referendum election would likely go badly for Obama, whose job approval numbers have been mired under 50 percent for months. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina warned in a fundraising email late Tuesday that the president would lose if the election were held today.
The vice president also cites the bailout of the auto industry—a policy fiercely opposed by Republican front-runner Mitt Romney—as evidence that Obama has "a spine of steel" when it comes to fighting for the middle class.
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"He knew rescuing the industry wasn't popular. He knew he was taking a chance. But he believed," Biden says in the excerpts. "He made the tough call. And the verdict is in: President Obama was right and his critics were dead wrong."
The auto industry rescue, a policy that had its origins under President George W. Bush, was broadly unpopular at the outset. But the New York Times recently reported that the bailout has gained currency with the public, as the auto industry has roared back to life.
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- President Barack Obama