Joe Biden says middle class 'has been buried' past 4 years. Oops.

While lambasting the Romney tax plan, Vice President Joe Biden decried raising taxes on an American middle class that 'has been buried' during the Obama years. Will his gaffe matter?

Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer/AP
Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters on Tuesday in Charlotte, NC at The Fillmore.

Joe Biden on Tuesday said the middle class “has been buried the last four years,” words Republicans trumpeted as evidence that even President Obama’s veep doesn’t believe the incumbent administration has been good for the country.

The man who would replace Mr. Biden, GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, said at a campaign stop in Iowa that Biden’s words show that the nation needs to “stop digging” by electing the Mitt Romney/Ryan ticket.

“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,” said Mr. Ryan. “They’re being buried by the Obama administration’s economic failures.”

Will this gaffe matter in the end? We have our doubts, though we’ve been wrong before.

First let’s look at the full context of Biden’s statement. Speaking to a crowd in North Carolina, Veep Joe repeated the administration’s claim that if elected Mr. Romney will have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to make the math of his tax proposals work.

“This is deadly earnest. 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, Biden stepped in it, in the sense that he produced a phrase the Romney folks can snip out and use in attack ads. The reality is the US economy isn’t great, and his boss is going to be very unhappy with Biden for pointing that out. Republicans will certainly use this to try to counter Democratic attacks on Romney for his comments at a fundraiser that depicted 47 percent of America as self-perceived victims hooked on government aid.

But Biden’s main point was that he doesn’t approve of Romney’s tax plan. He believes it will hurt the middle class. His inartful phrase detracts from that, but Biden and inartful go together like ham and eggs, or Delaware and highway tolls. (See “chains,” as in something the GOP will put you back in, which Biden said in August to a largely minority audience.)

So will voters see this as a game-changer, or Joe being Joe? We figure that will split along partisan lines without really moving truly uncommitted voters in the middle.

Generally speaking, gaffes, flubs, or verbal blow-ups don’t move polls much anyway. They’re shiny baubles that are fun for the press and political junkies, but nothing but a crumpled piece of tinfoil for everyone else. The “47 percent” stuff may have moved polls a percentage point or two, but that would be an exception to a general rule.

Plus, if Biden is going to wound himself with his own rhetoric, this week would be a good time. There’s a presidential debate Wednesday, in case you haven’t heard. The news from that is likely to overshadow Biden’s “middle class buried” words. At least it will overshadow it until Oct. 11, when the vice presidential debate will take place in Danville, Ky. At that point we’re pretty sure Ryan will bring it up again. Maybe even in his opening statement.

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