DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden welcomed Republican Paul Ryan to the presidential race Monday with a blistering attack on GOP policies that Biden said would crush the middle class in order to benefit the rich.
In keeping with tradition as No. 2 on a presidential ticket, Biden embraced the role of attack dog, saying Ryan's plan to "privatize" Social Security was irresponsible.
The fiery Democrat mocked those who say Ryan's budget plan, adopted only by the Republican-controlled House, was a bold attempt to fix the country's fiscal problems.
"What's gutsy about giving millionaires and billionaires tax breaks? What's gutsy about gutting Medicaid and Medicare?" Biden asked as an enthusiastic crowd estimated by local officials at about 900 supporters at the Durham Armory roared their approval.
The speech was Biden's first on the campaign trail since GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, as his running mate on Saturday.
Biden said Romney and Ryan are decent men, but have fundamentally different values from him President Barack Obama. Biden aimed most his barbs at Ryan, his counterpart as No. 2 man of the presidential ticket.
"Congressman Ryan has given definition to the vague commitments that Romney's been making. There's definition to it now. It's clear," Biden said, echoing other Democrats who say Romney's selection of Ryan makes the choice in the November election even more stark than it was before Ryan entered the race.
"Congressman Ryan and the congressional Republicans ... have already passed in the House what Gov. Romney is promising to give the whole nation," Biden said. "There is no distinction between what the Republican Congress has been proposing the last two years ... and what Gov. Romney wants to do."
The American people have "fundamentally" rejected that Republican congressional viewpoint, Biden said.
Ryan, a seven-term congressman and chairman of the House Budget Committee, wants to slice away at Medicare, food stamps and virtually all domestic programs, with military a notable exception.
Ryan's views have made him a hero to deficit hawks and to many Republicans. The GOP-controlled House has twice approved his austere budget plans.
Democrats, led by Obama and Biden, have attacked Ryan as a reckless cutter who would destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Biden called Ryan's budget plan a reminder of the economic policies of former President George W. Bush.
"We've seen this movie before and we know how it ends," he said. Then, citing former President Bill Clinton, Biden said Ryan's plan was "the last administration's policies on steroids."
Biden told the jubilant, chanting crowd that Democrats differ from Republicans on their approach to the economy.
"We don't think you grow the economy from millionaires on down. We think you grow the economy the old-fashioned way, from the middle class out," he said.
Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Romney, said Biden "doubled down on the same failed policies that have resulted in skyrocketing debt, higher taxes and record job losses."
Romney and Ryan "understand that our country is facing serious challenges that have been made worse by the Obama administration's big government agenda," Williams said, adding that the Romney-Ryan ticket will lay out a "bold vision" for the country and promote commonsense policies that will create jobs.
Joseph Blue, 67, a retired federal worker from Raleigh who attended the Durham rally, called Romney's choice of Ryan a "tragedy" for Republicans.
Blue said Ryan had no foreign policy experience and only limited private-sector experience.
"He's a budget man," Blue said, adding that Ryan's budget scares him, especially its proposed cuts to education spending.
"That's a disgrace," Blue said. "Education is the key to our survival." If anything, Blue said, school hours should be extended and budgets increased.
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