CHARLOTTE — Republicans have a new rhetorical punching bag: Vice President Joe Biden.
With attacks aimed at portraying President Barack Obama’s running mate as a governing liability, Republicans hope to raise the stature of GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
“Paul’s a close friend, a great family man, and he’s got a reformer’s heart,” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said at last week’s Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. “Contrast this to Joe Biden. Vice President Biden has told people out of work to `just hang in there’ — so much for `hope and change.”’
As Democrats prepare for their convention in Charlotte, N.C., the GOP is casting the 69-year-old former Delaware senator as a gaffe-prone crazy uncle who’s hung around the political scene too long. The strategy tries to undermine the Obama campaign’s chief surrogate and liaison to white, working-class voters and seniors, influential groups courted aggressively by both parties.
In an opinion piece published this past week by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson noted that Biden had said the economy felt like “a depression” and he accused the vice president of straying from “the Obama campaign talking points.”
At the GOP convention, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who joined Obama, Biden and House Speaker John Boehner for a round of golf last year, recalled Biden telling him he was a “good golfer. And I played golf with Joe Biden, and I can tell you that is not true, as well as all of other things that he says.”
Even unscripted moments have included knocks at Biden.
Actor Clint Eastwood’s convention monologue, beside an empty chair, included a swipe at Biden.
“You’re crazy, you’re absolutely crazy. You’re getting as bad as Biden,” Eastwood cracked in his made-up conversation with Obama. “Of course we all know Biden is the intellect of the Democratic Party. Kind of a grin with a body behind it.”
Of course, Biden can be prone to commit an unforced error from the podium, handing Republicans an opening.
Most recently, Biden told a Virginia crowd that included hundreds of African-Americans that Romney’s plans for Wall Street would put them “back in chains.”
In May, Biden said on a Sunday talk show that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex married couples having the same rights as heterosexual married couples. That essentially forced Obama to move forward with his support of same-sex marriage. Biden later apologized to the president for going off-script.
Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, warned that the hits on Biden actually could have an unintended consequence.
“When you ridicule someone, you’re lowering expectations to a point that makes it a lot harder for Paul Ryan to score points,” Schmidt said. “There’s a downside in that.”