DANVILLE, Va. — The Obama campaign said Tuesday it is confident Vice President Biden will be an effective foil for GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE, despite Biden's latest gaffe.
The vice president made headlines Tuesday when he told a crowd here that the GOP ticket’s policies would put “y’all back in chains.” The remark came in reference to Wall Street regulations, but the Romney campaign seized on it to say Biden and Obama had hit a new low.
The unscripted comments highlighted Biden’s propensity for off-the-cuff statements — which at times have caused the White House embarrassment. But Biden aides say the occasional slip-ups are far outweighed by the positives the vice president brings to the table.
“Vice President Biden has been the president’s partner and top surrogate on the campaign trail, and no one is fighting harder to ensure the president is reelected in November,” a campaign official said. “He continues to travel across the country making the case for what’s truly at stake in this election and why President Obama is the right choice for middle-class workers and their families.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign and GOP strategists pounced on Biden’s “chains” comment, saying the attacks are proof Democrats are worried about losing the election and instantly drawing comparisons to Ryan (R-Wis.), the charismatic congressman whose selection as Romney’s running mate has energized the GOP faithful.
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“A comment like that would never come out of Paul Ryan’s mouth,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist. “He’s too savvy and too astute to say something so over the top."
Ken Lundberg, another Republican strategist, referred to Biden as Team Obama adviser Stephanie Cutter’s “worst nightmare."
“When polls are as close as they are, staying on message is critically important,” Lundberg said. “Unfortunately, the vice president doesn’t recognize that, and what he said in Danville is proof. Gaffes like that are offensive and can turn Biden’s off-the-cuff charm into a campaign liability.”
In separate remarks on Tuesday afternoon, Biden mocked Republicans for unleashing the attack. “I am told when I made that comment earlier today in Danville, Va., the Romney campaign put out a tweet. You know, tweets these days? Put out a tweet, went on the airwaves saying, ‘Biden, he’s outrageous in saying that.'
“I got a message for them. If you want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies and the effects of their policies on middle-class America,” he said. Biden pointed out that both Ryan and House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio) have used the word “unshackle” to discuss the economy.
On Tuesday evening, a couple hours after Biden’s speech, Romney pushed back, saying the Obama campaign and its surrogates “have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency."
On the heels of the remarks, he said the White House had sunk "a little bit lower.”
All day, Biden aides maintained that the remark was taken out of context and that the vice president was “using a metaphor to describe the devastating impact of deregulating Wall Street and the financial industry.”
Despite the “chains” remark, Obama’s campaign is brimming with confidence about the matchup between Biden and Ryan, arguing that the real game-changer is on their side.
In speeches Monday and Tuesday in the swing states of North Carolina and Virginia, Biden cranked up the rhetoric, highlighting the Obama campaign’s belief that it has the momentum in the race — not Romney and Ryan.
Senior aides close to Biden insist the vice president can attack Ryan and Romney with force and his characteristic folksiness, all while charming a crowd with humor and self-effacement.
“He's real confident talking about Ryan because he knows him. It's an easy thing for him to do,” said one senior adviser to Biden. “He can criticize Ryan without being personal about it.”
While Ryan, 42, is a budget policy wonk deeply familiar with the inner workings of Washington and the corridors of power on Capitol Hill, he has never run in so much as a statewide election before.
Biden, who will turn 70 in November, is a veteran of retail politics who served in the Senate for nearly 40 years and twice ran for president, and the campaign is looking to capitalize on his experience in connecting with voters.
Anyone who has observed Biden knows the vice president’s unscripted remarks are unlikely to end — and on a few occasions they arguably have helped the president.
Biden was caught on camera telling Obama the passage of the healthcare law was a “big [expletive] deal," and during an appearance on “Meet the Press” earlier this year said he was “comfortable” with gay marriage — a remark that led Obama himself to give his personal nod to same-sex marriage.
It has been argued that Biden’s gaffes underline his real-guy persona, something that helps voters relate to the vice president and, by extension, to Obama.
On Tuesday, former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) introduced Biden as a “tried and true champion of the middle class,” something that he said came through during Biden’s speech.
The speech, Perriello said, helped draw the stark contrast in the presidential race.
“You really have a chance to contrast a guy who understands the working class … and another guy that believes this is another time to raise taxes,” Perriello said in an interview.
Asked about Biden's performance, Perriello added, “Did he look like he was missing a step at all? There were a few times when I thought he was going to bust right through the podium.”
This story was updated at 9:44 p.m.