During a pitch to the United Auto Workers in Toledo, Vice President Joe Biden offered a vigorous defense of President Obama’s auto industry bailout while drawing a distinction between the president’s economic policies and those of Republican candidates.
“We’re about protecting the private sector,” Mr. Biden said Thursday morning. “They’re about promoting the privileged sector.”
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Much of his roughly 15-minute speech focused on the Obama administration’s bail out of the auto industry. Despite polling that showed the bail out would be politically unpopular, the President “didn’t flinch,” Mr. Biden said.
“The verdict is in. President Obama was right and they were dead wrong,” he said, referring to the three frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr. Biden said the administration’s policies have saved a million jobs, and that the resurgence of U.S. car makers has helped create 1,350 new jobs at Toledo-area auto plants. He praised auto workers for making sacrifices as part of the industry’s reorganization.
“The President and I made a simple bet,” he said. “We bet on you. We bet on American ingenuity. And we won.”
The vice president’s appearance at the UAW Local 12 Hall on Ashland Avenue is the first of a series of speeches he will be making in defense of the administration’s economic policies. It was also his first major campaign event in Ohio for the 2012 presidential election. Mr. Biden also stopped at an auto plant in Perrysburg Township and a school in Rossford.
During his speech at the UAW hall, Mr. Biden took aim at all three GOP frontrunners during the speech — former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
“They’re about no rules, no risk, and no accountability,” Mr. Biden said. “If you give any of these guys the keys to the White House, they will bankrupt the middle class.”
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, who warmed up the crowd before the vice president’s address, said 120,000 Ohio jobs were saved thanks to federal intervention in the auto industry.
Prior to Mr. Biden’s speech, the Republican National Committee had already released a statement criticizing the vice president.
“With broken promises mounting and food and gas prices soaring, President Obama and Vice President Biden know they’re in trouble in Ohio and that’s why they continue to hide behind friendly union audiences,” the statement said.
“Another Biden campaign speech won’t change the fact that Obama’s signature piece of legislation was resoundingly rejected in every Ohio county or that Ohioans remain worse off than they were when Barack Obama took office,” the statement continued. “The fact remains, Ohioans are feeling the pain of President Obama and Vice President Biden’s polices, while special interests and campaign donors seem to be the only ones better off than they were four years ago.”
Florence Anderson, a retired social worker from South Toledo, waited in line starting at 7:55 a.m. to get into the union hall and hear Mr. Biden speak at about 11:15 a.m.
“I think it’s important he is coming here to show support for President Obama,” Ms. Anderson said. “I support him and I want to hear what the vice president is going to say. People here want to hear that jobs ate going to be coming back. That is the most important message.”
University of Toledo student Tate Stricklin, 27, said student loan interest rates and debt, as well as immigration were two of the issues that compelled him to come listen to the vice president.
“He is going to have to talk about growth in the automotive industry and sustainability for Toledo to get [votes] here,” Mr. Stricklin said.
Mr. Biden also touted his personal connections to the auto industry during his visit to the area. At the UAW hall, he told the crowd that his father had managed a Jeep dealership.
“I drove those Jeeps you built,” Mr. Biden said. “My daughter still drives a Jeep.”
After his speech at the UAW hall, Mr. Biden visited the Toledo Machining Plant in Perrysburg Township, a suburb about 15 minutes south of Toledo. Chrysler Group LLC said last year it would invest $72 million in the plant, located at 8000 Chrysler Dr.
The vice president got out of his sport utility vehicle, took off his jacket, and walked up to greet Plant Manager Donald DeKeyser.
“I welcomed him and he told me a story about how his father was involved with the Newark Assembly plant, which used to make the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen. It was very brief,” Mr. DeKeyser said.
About a dozen selected employees were at the gate entrance waiting for Mr. Biden. He talked to the crowd, shouting, “Hey, how are you guys.” More workers then started streaming out of the plant at the end of a 2:30 p.m. shift change. Dozens posed for photographs with the vice president.
Plant physician Dr. Sue Parkins was among those meeting Mr. Biden. “I may need your help,” Mr. Biden said to Dr. Parkins, who wore a long white doctor’s coat. Later Dr. Parkins said: “He said ‘I may need your help’ and I said that we need his, I just told him that we are grateful for what he has done for us.”
The vice president then stopped at Glenwood Elementary school in Rossford. Mr. Biden posed for pictures with about 20 children outside while other children stuck their heads out of second and third floor windows.
“You guys are all so nice to say hi to me. I will tell President Obama you said hi,” Mr. Biden said.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6171.