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Why Obama is unleashing Joe Biden on 2012 campaign trail

Vice president Joe Biden spoke to auto industry workers in Ohio Thursday about the auto bailout. Biden speaks to working-class American voters, say analysts, in a race that could be between two Harvard-trained presidential candidates – Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

By Andy SullivanReuters / March 15, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden reacts to a fan prior to speaking at a union hall in Toledo, Ohio, Thursday March 15, 2012.

(AP Photo/Madalyn Ruggiero)

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Toledo, Ohio

In a presidential election that could feature two Harvard-trained candidates not known for their common touch, President Barack Obama's campaign deployed a new weapon on Thursday: Vice President Joe Biden.

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With a tough re-election fight looming in November, Obama campaign officials hope Biden's back-slapping demeanor and humble origins will help win the support of blue collar voters.

Though Obama did not win the white working class vote in 2008, he will have to hold losses to a manageable level in order to win industrial Midwestern states like Ohio that will be crucial battlegrounds in the fall, analysts say.

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Biden flew to this battered industrial city to celebrate the revival of the Us auto industry and criticized the Republican presidential candidates who say the government should not have stepped in to help it.

He had another message for the auto workers who have seen factories go dark and neighborhoods empty out: I understand what you are going through.

"As a kid I saw my dad trapped in a city where all the good jobs were gone," Biden said, referring to his childhood in the faded industrial town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The election is likely to turn on the state of the economy and the Obama administration sees the auto bailout as one of its best chances to convince voters that the deepest recession since the 1930s could have been much worse.

For Obama, the auto industry bailout is a chance to win back working-class white voters who have abandoned the party in droves over the past decades.

Obama won in 2008 thanks to a coalition of minorities, young people and college-educated white voters. In Ohio, he lost the white working-class vote by 10 percentage points even as he carried the state.

But those voters can still swing an election, as Obama's fellow Democrats found out in the 2010 midterm elections when strong support from seniors and working class voters helped Republicans win control of the House of Representatives.

Obama will need to limit his losses among this group in order to win Ohio and other Rust Belt states, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

He could catch a break if front-runner Mitt Romney secures the Republican nomination. Romney, a former private equity executive worth as much as $250 million, has struggled to win working-class voters as he battles Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator, and Newt Gingrich, former U.S. House speaker, in the state-by-state Republican nominating contest.

A number of gaffes - such as challenging a rival to a $10,000 bet and stating that "I like firing people" - has given critics ammunition to argue that he is out of touch with ordinary voters.

RELATED: Nine gaffes by Mitt Romney

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