Vice President Joe Biden is making his first major foray into the 2012 presidential campaign in Ohio, an effort by President Barack Obama's re-election campaign to use the frequently blunt Biden to combat criticism from Republicans and dish it right back at them.
In a speech Thursday at a United Auto Workers hall in Toledo, Ohio, Biden is expected to offer a vigorous defense of the president's auto industry bailout and a robust takedown of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's opposition to the policy. The White House says the president's actions saved 1.4 million U.S. jobs.
"The verdict is in: President Obama was right and his critics were dead wrong," Biden says in excerpts of his prepared remarks released by the Obama campaign.
Biden's daylong trip to Ohio, the always-critical political battleground, marks the first of four general election campaign events he will hold in the coming weeks. Campaign officials say Biden's speeches will frame the issues at the core of the general election and draw a stark contrast between the president and his GOP rivals.
"Stated simply, we're about promoting the private sector. They're about protecting the privileged sector," Biden says. "We're a fair shot, and a fair shake. They're about no rules, no risk and no accountability."
Biden's general election blitz marks a new chapter for the Obama re-election campaign. While the three key campaign principals -- the president, Biden and first lady Michelle Obama -- have all been headlining campaign fundraisers for several months, the vice president is the first of the trio to engage in official, non-fundraising campaign events.
The president isn't expected to fully engage in the campaign until the GOP picks its nominee. And campaign officials say they're still crafting a campaign strategy for the first lady.
Biden's campaign strategy has been in the works for several months, and its early rollout underscores his importance to the Democratic ticket.
In the lead-up to the November election, Biden is expected to target the big three political battlegrounds -- Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The campaign's goal is to use the vice president's strengths to counteract Obama's perceived weaknesses.
The president sometimes struggles to connect with Ohio's and Pennsylvania's white working-class voters. Jewish voters, who make up a core constituency for Florida Democrats, view him with skepticism. Biden has built deep ties to both groups during his four decades in national politics, connections that could make a difference.
As a long-serving member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden cemented his reputation as an unyielding supporter of Israel, winning the respect of many in the Jewish community. And his upbringing in a working-class Catholic family from Scranton, Pa., gives the vice president a valuable political intangible: He empathizes with the struggles of blue-collar Americans.
Democratic officials also believe Biden's presence in key battlegrounds can benefit congressional candidates in those states as the party looks to regain some of the seats it lost in the 2010 midterm elections.