WASHINGTON (CNN) - The image war over the impact of President Obama's stimulus plan escalated Thursday, as Democrats targeted another major GOP congressional critic of the package, and the vice president again raised the stakes with a visit to the lawmaker's home state.
Hours before House Minority Whip Eric Cantor spoke on a conference call slamming the effectiveness of the administration's stimulus policy, the Democratic National Committee launched a pre-emptive strike: a tough statement tarring opponents of the plan – including the Virginia congressman - as foes of economic recovery.
Vice President Joe Biden is headlining another stimulus-promoting event Thursday, this time in Richmond, Virginia. "I ask those critics...Would they not help prevent (layoffs of) thousands of teachers, firefighters, cops?" Biden is planning to say, according to prepared remarks. "Would they not give a tax cut to 95 percent of the American people? Would they sit back and do nothing as our economy collapsed?"
(Updated after the jump with Cantor, GOP response)
Cantor shot back Thursday afternoon. "We are told Vice President Biden is in Virginia this afternoon to highlight stimulus progress, but he, along with the Obama administration, will hear from my fellow citizens that spending money does not necessarily equal success for the stimulus program," he told reporters on a conference call. "....A stimulus bill should have an immediate economic impact and create real, long-term jobs, and this stimulus bill has clearly not created jobs or fixed our economy."
"It's not that surprising that yet another Republican has been caught speaking out of both sides of his mouth on the effects of the Recovery Act," DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan said in a Thursday statement. "But, Cantor and his fellow Republicans can't have it both ways. Either they are for economic recovery and the jobs it's bringing to the folks they represent, or they are against it."
Last week, House Minority Leader John Boehner found himself in the DNC's sights: Democrats released a tough Web video blasting him for saying the stimulus hadn't delivered for his state.
"In fact, millions in recovery act funds have been committed to dozens of projects creating jobs for people right here in Ohio," the narrator said in the DNC video. "…Now John Boehner is using baseless attacks to mislead the public about the success of the Recovery Act."
Democrats continued the assault with e-mails and conference calls, as Biden made his way to Cincinnati, in Boehner's home state of Ohio. The DNC also went live with a cable buy aimed at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and launched attacks on much lesser-known GOP critics of the stimulus policy in key battlegrounds like Ohio and Florida.
UPDATE: Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring called the stimulus a "bad deal" and a "misguided ...pork-barrel bill." He also blasted the DNC's statement as politically tone-deaf.
"For (Virginia Gov. Tim) Kaine's DNC to flatly state that there is an economic recovery misses the current and increasing double-digit unemployment in Richmond and the 8.1% unemployment in Central Virginia," he said in a statement. "To declare an 'economic recovery' when so many Virginian families are being negatively impacted by this Administrations economic policy is a truly shocking statement that should be retracted....
"...A stimulus bill should have an immediate economic impact and create real, long term jobs, and this stimulus has not created jobs or fixed our economy."