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Biden says GOP’s middle-class ‘conversion’ unconvincing

ZANESVILLE, Ohio -– Vice President Joe Biden kicked off his post-convention solo campaigning by making a populist appeal to voters in working-class communities in southeastern Ohio Saturday afternoon, blasting Mitt Romney’s plans on Medicare and taxes that he said are “just not fair.”

Biden mocked the Republicans’ “conversion” to advocates for the middle class that they put on display at the GOP convention, but he said they didn’t “have the courage” to explain what their policies would actually mean to struggling families.

“I got the courage to tell you. I’m anxious to tell you,” he said.

He claimed that the Republican platform would mean 30 million seniors on Medicare would see benefit cuts because it would reopen the so-called doughnut hole for prescription drug costs and require them to pay for preventive screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies.

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Biden also alluded to the budget plan offered by vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan in the House, which he said would turn Medicare into “vouchercare,” despite Ryan’s assertion that it would extend the life of the federal entitlement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s not fair. And that’s not truthful. What they told you is not on the level,” he said.

Biden also slugged Romney for proposing to extend the so-called George W. Bush tax cuts and offer additional cuts that would benefit high-income Americans. Paying for them, Biden said, would result in an additional $2,000 in “taxes on middle-class families.” He cited a study that identified possible areas of the budget that would have to be cut to offset the revenue losses.

“I don’t mind them having all that money, but they don’t need it,” Biden said of those who would stand to benefit from Romney’s tax proposals. “It will not change one single thing about their living standard. But $2,000 out of the pocket in the neighborhood I come from, that changes your living standard. That makes a difference.”

To cheers from his supportive crowd, Biden crowed: “Folks, it’s not right, it’s not fair. It’s not new. It’s just worse.”

The vice president repeatedly said he was offering hard truths and challenged the media to “fact-check me.” The Romney campaign quickly did, citing media truth-squadding on past Biden statements, many of which were not made Saturday, on the Republican’s budget and healthcare proposals.

Romney spokesperson Amanda Henneberg said Biden’s statements were “an attempt to distract from President Obama’s failed record, including unemployment remaining over 8%, labor force participation falling to three-decade lows, and our national debt passing $16 trillion.”

Biden is spending the weekend in Ohio, traveling in areas where President Obama’s share of the vote in 2008 lagged behind John Kerry’s in 2004 and likely will be carried again this year by Mitt Romney.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland introduced Biden in stops in Zanesville and later Athens, which he had represented in Congress. He told reporters that Biden is a key part of the Democrats’ strategy in Ohio, trying to boost the ticket’s vote from, say, 39% to 43% in these areas, to improve their chances of carrying the state’s 18 electoral votes.

“I think he will be in Ohio at least once a week, maybe as often as twice a week between now and Nov. 6,” Strickland predicted. And, in fact, Biden had just been in northern Ohio last week and will return again Wednesday.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikememoli


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