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Is Joe Biden the GOP's new secret weapon?

The Romney camp has pounced on a gaffe Tuesday by Joe Biden and quickly used it in an ad, titled 'Couldn't Say It Better,' but it may struggle to sell Romney as a defender of the middle class.

By Staff Writer / October 3, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Asheville, N.C., Oct. 2.

Chuck Burton/AP

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Is Joe Biden the GOP’s new secret weapon?

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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That’s what the Mitt Romney presidential campaign appears to believe. It’s begun to publicize VP Biden’s twisted tongue moment of Tuesday, in which he said “the middle class ... has been buried the last four years,” in an attempt to turn the sitting Veep’s own words against his boss.

The Romney camp already has an ad up in which Biden is front and center. Titled “Couldn’t Say It Better,” it starts with about 15 seconds of clips of Romney and his VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan saying that the “Obama economy” has crushed the middle class, workers are suffering, and so forth.

Then it cuts to Biden speaking Tuesday at a campaign appearance in Charlotte, N.C. “The middle class ... has been buried” he shouts to the crowd. Then comes a white screen, and a simple phrase, “We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.”

Top Romney surrogate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was even more cutting at an appearance Wednesday in Colorado. He repeated Biden’s statement to a roomful of Republicans, then said, “He’s the best thing we’ve got going, guys. Because in a moment of clarity, in a brief moment of clarity, he told us what we already knew.”

Will this work? Well, Biden’s sentence certainly fits into the Romney campaign’s original strategy for the race. That was to hammer home the jobless numbers and tie them to President Obama’s stewardship of the economy.

There’s a presidential candidate debate Wednesday night in Denver – just in case you hadn’t heard – and it’s supposed to focus on economic issues. We’re pretty sure that some variation of “middle class” and “buried” will work its way into a pre-planned Romney zinger.

The problem for Romney is that his economic message alone hasn’t been carrying him toward victory. Lagging a few stubborn percentage points behind Obama in the polls, the former Massachusetts governor has had to broaden his approach, hitting the administration on its policies toward the Middle East and other foreign issues as he attempts to portray himself as a more forceful choice for the Oval Office.

Plus, voters in general don’t necessarily see the wealthy Romney as the best candidate to look out for the middle class’s interests. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News survey 66 percent of respondents said that Obama does more to favor the middle class than the wealthy. Only 35 percent made the same judgment about Romney.

Finally, it’s unlikely you’ll see the fuller context of the Biden “buried” quote in a GOP ad anytime soon. At the time he spoke those words, he was working up a dudgeon about Romney’s tax proposals, which the Obama campaign maintains inevitably would lead to a higher taxes for those in the middle.

“This is deadly earnest,” Biden told the North Carolina crowed. “How they can justify, 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? We’ve seen this movie before....”

Yes, this charge is itself based on a fairly tenuous analysis of Romney’s plans. But the GOP still has to shear off most of what Biden said to make his statement something they can use in their ads.

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