Philadelphia (CNN) – Vice President Biden spoke to a friendly convention of firefighters on Wednesday, praising them for their work and stating that Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations represent a threat to their economic livelihoods.
First calling Romney a decent family man, the vice president went on to portray the Republican presidential candidate as out of touch.
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"[Romney] said, 'Guaranteeing the government will keep its fire, police and teachers intact is not an effective way to get the economy rolling again,'" Biden quoted.
"I don't think he understands what you're all about....what makes you decide to go into this profession that you couldn't pay enough to 90% of the population, including me, to do what you do, everyday."
Biden also sought to tie Romney's policy priorities to those of others in the GOP.
"I think this new Republican Party looks at you as both the reason for - and the solution to– this God-awful recession we inherited," the vice president said. "We inherited, by the way, because of their policies –the same policies they're continuing to push."
"They look at your ranks and they see an easy place to cut budgets to accommodate their priorities. Not just you: cops, public workers, generally."
The vice president spoke to over 3,000 firefighters attending the 51st convention of the International Association of Fire Fighters in Philadelphia. President Obama will speak to the gathering, by telephone, on Thursday, CNN has learned.
It was sure to be a friendly reception. During his speech, Biden reminded the audience of his long ties to unions, and firefighters in particular, and played up his and the administration's work on their behalf. Many in the crowd applauded enthusiastically during Biden's speech.
"A Republican Congress elected in 2010, overwhelmingly bent on obstruction, obstructing our efforts to help you to protect your jobs and keep enough people on the force to be able to protect your lives," the vice president said, referring to GOP opposition to the Recovery Act. "Because what most people don't know out there is your lives are more in jeopardy, literally in jeopardy, when you respond [to emergencies] without a full complement of firefighters."
Despite claims from Republicans that the stimulus wasted billions and did not spur economic growth, Biden used a direct appeal to the firefighters to claim that it worked.
The act "allowed fire departments to re-hire, to avoid layoffs."
Throughout the speech, Biden cast the GOP as unmoored from its more principled past.
"This is not your fathers Republican Party," the vice president said. "They really, really believe that they have to cut you and millions of other middle class Americans in order to rebuild this economy. Because they believe it is core...that the way to rebuild the economy of this great nation is from the top down."
In response to the vice president's remarks, Romney campaign spokesman, Ryan Williams, sent a statement from a retired battalion chief for the Philadelphia Fire Department.
"Joe Biden can come to Philadelphia, and he can try and tell the hard working men and women of this city that he understands what we've been going through. But no matter what he says, he can't cover up the words of the President. The President may think the private sector is 'doing fine.' He may want small businesspeople to believe that they 'didn't build that.' But we know that he is simply out of touch with the struggles that middle class Americans are going through, and that he doesn't understand what drives the American economy. The President and Vice President should remember one thing – they didn't build our success. We did," said Fred Donnelly, retired, battalion chief, Philadelphia Fire Department.