May 17th, 2012
12:55 PM ET
11 years ago

Biden to eastern Ohio: I'm just like you

(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Ohio's coal country Thursday, slammed rivals for claiming he was engaging in class envy by speaking about the middle class, saying he came from a family that helped build the American dream.

"I don't think these guys understand us, and I'm including 'us' because we come from the same kind of background," Biden said at a car dealership in Martins Ferry, Ohio. Biden was on the second day of a swing through the eastern edge of Ohio, a largely working class part of the key battleground state.

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"A lot of Romney supporters say we're engaging in class envy. Wealth envy," Biden continued. "Like my mom and dad didn't dream one of their kids could be a millionaire? Like my mom and dad didn't dream one of their kids could become president? Like my mom and dad didn't dream one of their kids couldn't invent the new, new thing?"

Biden said one moniker, used to describe his background, struck him as condescending.

"I get tired of being called 'Middle Class Joe,' like that somehow I'm just Joe and I don't dream. C'mon man. Look, you're the ones that built this country. This valley built this country," Biden said to cheers.

Biden, who was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to middle class parents, went on to serve in the U.S. Senate for nearly 30 years. His 2011 federal income tax return indicated he, along with his wife Dr. Jill Biden, earned $379,035 in income last year.

Much of Biden's speech Thursday focused on the renewed success of the American auto industry, which President Barack Obama's campaign is promoting heavily as a signature achievement of the president's first term. Biden spoke Thursday in front of three Chevrolet Cruzes, a model manufactured in nearby Lordstown.

"I say, 'Hello Honda. Hello Toyota. Take a look. In the compact field, the best selling automobile for the first time in a long time. And that's because of the quality of the product," Biden said, pointing to the vehicles behind him.

Biden slammed Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee, who last week took credit for the turnaround of the American auto industry.

"By the way, I will take a lot of credit for a man having landed on the moon. Because although I was in school I rooted for it!" Biden joked, though the vice president was 26 years old when Americans first landed on the moon.

In his remarks, Biden also went after Romney's record at Bain Capital, reviving many of the same attacks he brought Wednesday in Youngstown, Ohio.

"Some of Romney's defenders say it's not fair to criticize Romney for this, and go on to point out that it's not the job of investors, not the job of Bain Capital, or any other company like that, not their job to create jobs. It's their job to create wealth for investors. That's true," Biden said, stipulating: "That's not job of president of the United States of America. The job is much bigger than that."

In a conference call organized by the Republican National Committee ahead of Thursday's speech, Rep. Bill Johnson labeled the White House's energy policies an "assault on coal," recalling comments Biden made in 2007 that seemed to vilify the industry.

"In 2007, let me remind you, Vice President Biden said coal was a bigger threat than high fructose corn syrup and terrorism, for crying out loud," Johnson said. "I don't know how many people are going to remind him of that today when he's in Martins Ferry, but someone should."

When questioned by Bill Maher during his run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007, Biden did list coal and corn syrup as more likely to shorten the lives of Americans than terrorism.

"Which would you honestly say is more likely to contribute to the death of your average American, a terrorist strike? Or high fructose corn syrup and air that has too much coal in it?" Maher asked.

Biden responded, "Air that has too much coal in it, corn syrup next, then a terrorist attack. But that is not in any way to diminish the fact that a terrorist attack is real. It is not an existential threat to bringing down the country, but it does have the capacity, still, to kill thousands of people. But hundreds of thousands of people die and their lives are shortened because of coal plants, coal-fired plants and because of corn syrup."

Johnson said he had no concerns about Romney's ability to connect to blue collar workers in Ohio, saying the likely GOP nominee had the right approach to the industry.

"I think Gov. Romney is going to represent the coal industry very well," Johnson said. "I've met him and we've talked about some of those issues. I believe he gets it."

Also see:

Obama campaign focuses on military families

Senate's all-day budget debate dominated by politics

Bain back-and-forth continues

Big spending and close polls in Wisconsin recall battle

Filed under: 2012 • Joe Biden • Mitt Romney • Ohio
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. pa ha

    ""America does not need another FOOL in the WHITE HOUSE. GW BUSH is the perfect example of how you can learn from a FOOL. MITT ROMNEY is a lying fool. He should not be a President. He is a muck-up liar. Mitt Romney lies on our current president like a Fool. He is lying about moving this country forward. ""

    May 17, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
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