Biden says middle class 'buried,' but who wielded the shovel?

Vice President Joe Biden said the middle class has been “buried the last four years,” not the most artful statement coming from the No. 2 in the administration in charge during that time.

Biden’s remark during a campaign rally Tuesday in North Carolina immediately provoked tart ripostes by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan and GOP surrogate John Sununu, who said the Democrat “finally got something right.”

Sununu said during a conference call with reporters that the Biden comment will provide a nice entree for Mitt Romney to talk about the middle class in Wednesday night’s debate with President Obama.

The “buried” comment seems unlikely to resonate much with voters, though, because it captured the V.P. expressing sympathy, rather than contempt, for everyday citizens. And Biden made the statement while making a larger point about the foolishness of a GOP plan that he said would raise taxes on the middle class.

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Biden made the statement while appearing in Charlotte, N.C., scene of last month’s Democratic National Convention.

“This is deadly earnest,” he told the crowd, referring to assessments that say the GOP would have to raise middle class taxes to pay for tax reductions for the wealthy. “How they can justify ... raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried the last four years? How in the Lord's name can they justify raising their taxes and these tax cuts?”

Ryan responded at his own rally in Burlington, Iowa.

“Vice President Biden just today said that the middle class over the last four years has been quote, ‘buried,’” Ryan said. “Of course the middle class has been buried. They’re being buried by regulations, they’re being buried by taxes, they’re being buried by borrowing. They’re being buried by the Obama administration’s economic failures.”

Obama campaign officials said the Republicans were attempting to make much of an innocuous statement. But Biden took at small stab at clearing up any confusion at a subsequent campaign stop in North Carolina. “The middle class was buried,” the vice president told a crowd in Asheville, “by the policies that Romney and Ryan have supported.”

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Even as he pounced on Biden for the remark, Sununu, former White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush, acknowledged that Romney has to make his own case to the middle class and other voters in Wednesday’s debate, which begins at 6 p.m. PDT.

Sununu said Romney would emphasize his “life of service,” while also demonstrating “empathy and feeling for people’s needs.”

Polls have shown that many voters have not warmed to the wealthy Republican businessman, a feeling he clearly hopes to reverse in his one-on-one encounters with Obama.

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