Vice President Joseph Biden speaks at the Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) Program transition ceremony, Monday, October 1, 2012, at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Denver—While campaigning on Tuesday in North Carolina, Vice-President Joe Biden admitted a politically inconvenient truth. Biden said Mitt Romney would raise taxes on the middle class and asked, “How they can justify…raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried the last four years?”
Republicans are, understandably, excited. The Romney campaign pounced, with Paul Ryan declaring at an Iowa campaign rally, “We agree!” he said. “That means we need to stop digging by electing Mitt Romney as the next president of the United States.”
In Denver, where some members of the national media have already arrived for Wednesday night’s presidential debate, the state Republican Party quickly threw together a press conference Tuesday evening to “discuss how the middle class has been buried under President Obama.” Standing in front of a Romney/Ryan campaign bus emblazoned with the slogan “More Jobs, More Take Home Pay,” three Republican politicians gleefully recounted statistics that illustrate the financial squeeze that has been placed on many American families.
Unfortunately for the Republicans, though, the arguments they presented demonstrate why Biden’s comment may not be nearly as damning as they hope. At first glance, it was incredibly foolish of Biden to admit that the last four years have been tough ones for many voters. Certainly, Biden’s statement can only do more harm than good for the Democratic ticket.
But it will be seriously damaging for Obama and Biden only if voters are not smart enough to recognize an important fact of American politics: the White House does not single-handedly control all aspects of their lives. It does not hire and fire all the employees, or set all their salaries or set the prices of commodities. What Biden said is true: the middle class has had a hard few years under Obama, but Obama’s opponent would make the next four years even harder. If voters can separate those two things—to be sure, that is never a safe assumption—then Biden’s gaffe will not get much traction.
“Joe Biden is the broken clock that got it right,” joked Barbara Comstock, a Virginia state delegate at the Tuesday evening press conference in Denver. “Biden was more honest than he intended to be,” gloated former congressman Bob Beauprez. Beauprez went on to note the various measures by which the country has suffered. “There are more people unemployed than when Barack Obama stepped into the White House,” he said. Beauprez argued that the high rate of unemployment proves that the American Recovery Act was an abject failure. Beauprez threw out more statistics, always using Obama’s inauguration as the benchmark: gas prices are higher, the debt has increased, health insurance premiums have risen.