Local Politics

Biden attacks Romney, Ryan positions in Durham visit

Posted August 13, 2012 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2012 9:55 a.m. EDT

— Vice President Joe Biden told hundreds of cheering supporters in Durham on Monday that the selection of the choice of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee demonstrates a clear choice for voters this November.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Saturday named Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who heads the House Budget Committee, as his running mate, and Biden wasted no time going after his GOP counterpart in a speech at the Durham Armory.

Biden said Ryan is a key member of the Republican Congress that has stonewalled efforts to improve the economy in recent years and that wants the U.S. to revert to the failed policies that brought on the recession.

"Ryan gives definition to the vague commitments (Republican presidential candidate Mitt) Romney has been making," Biden said. "They've already passed in the House what Romney's promising to give the nation."

Romney's platform of cutting taxes for the wealthy, slashed education spending and repealing health care reform would put an undue burden on America's middle class, wouldn't balance the budget and wouldn't boost the economy, the vice president said.

"We don't think you grow the economy from millionaires down," he said. "We think you grow the economy the old-fashioned way – from the middle-class out."

William Peace University political science professor David McLennan said it's not surprising that Biden wanted to "go after (Ryan) with both guns."

"(Biden's) a veteran. He knows what he's doing," McLennan said. "He's going to advance the president's cause and make the president the champion of the middle class."

The Obama campaign will likely try to use Ryan's proposed Medicare changes against Romney, McLennan said, noting that the issue could play a role in battleground states with many retirees, such as Florida and North Carolina.

"What you’ve done is drawn some distinctions. You’ve got now Ryan and Romney, with Ryan’s economic message now further sharpened," he said. "You’ve got the Obama-Biden team. They’re going to try to define Paul Ryan as being against the seniors. So you’ve really got some interesting battle lines drawn."

Biden said voters have "one of the starkest choices" in the November election, noting that the Democratic and Republican tickets have "fundamentally different values."

"The differences couldn't be more clearly laid out," he said. "Maybe once that choice is made, we can stop all this gridlock and all this obstructionism, and we can start to move on."

Supporters said Biden's rhetoric was on target Monday.

"The opposition is talking about restoring different parts of America, but this is the team that's going to accomplish that," Steven Prince said.

"He connected with people, and I think everybody was fired up," Alfreda Price-Wicker said.

After his speech, Biden stopped at Blue Coffee Café in Durham to meet the winners of the campaign's "Cup of Joe with Joe" contest. They flew in from Texas and Indiana for the event.

At the coffeehouse and at another stop at the Hillsborough Fire Department, Biden praised firefighters, recounting how Delaware firefighters saved his son's lives in an accident 40 years ago that killed his first wife and daughter.

The trip was Biden's third to North Carolina this year, and both the Obama and Romney campaigns and their supporters are targeting the state with dozens of local offices and millions of dollars on ads.

One immediate effect of Ryan's selection could be to change the tenor of those ads, McLennan said.

"We may see the ads move from personal attacks to more substantive discussions of policy, because Ryan is an economic expert, and so he’s defined the election about economics," he said.

The latest WRAL News poll showed Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,000 votes in 2008.

"For the Romney-Ryan team, they are doing exactly what they should be doing, which is making it about the economy, making it about the president’s record," McLennan said. "The Obama team has got to try to define Ryan and by extension Romney as being out of touch but also against the middle class as well as seniors."