Biden Poised to Play Key Campaign Role in Battleground States

Vice President Biden could take on a critical role in the 2012 campaign, stumping in battleground states where President Obama has fallen out of favor among core constituencies.

Democrats reportedly are working on a plan to send Biden out to the three major political battlegrounds of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Those states are key to any presidential victory, and states Obama won in the 2008 election. But recent polling from those states shows the president just about tied with potential Republican challengers in the 2012 election, and voter attitudes toward the president souring.

Biden could represent the kind of profile the Obama campaign needs. Whereas Obama has at times struggled to connect with white working-class voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Florida's major Jewish constituency, Biden has deep ties to both groups. His pro-Israel credentials come from his many years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And he frequently stresses his blue-collar upbringing in a Catholic family from Scranton, Pa.

A Democratic official told The Associated Press that Biden has been working the phones with prominent Jewish groups and Catholic organizations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Plus he's already made visits to those states.

A Democratic strategist with strong ties to the Obama White House told Fox News it's unlikely Biden will campaign in those three states as a substitute for Obama.

"This isn't like '92, when Clinton worked the North, Midwest and West while Gore campaigned in South," the strategist said. "Bottom line is Obama needs to win in those states, Biden can't win it for him."

However, the strategist said Biden "is an asset in those states and more."

"The value of Biden is highest on the campaign trail. Hearing him talk about his father's struggles with unemployment when he was a kid is compelling and resonates with average Americans. He'll be a key part of (the) campaign in key states," the strategist said.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen said the white working class is arguably the most important demographic in the 2012 election, particularly in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as Michigan.

"I think the key demographic group is the white working class Democrats," Rasmussen told Fox News on Saturday. "They voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries in 2008 over Barack Obama. They voted for the president in the 2008 general election, and they voted for Republicans the last time around."

Rasmussen said recent polling shows "the race will be close."

Indeed, polls over the past month show neither party necessarily has the edge in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida.

A PPP poll showed Obama's approval rating has suffered severely in Pennsylvania. The poll, released earlier this week, put his approval at 42 percent, with 53 percent disapproving of his job performance. However, the poll still showed him tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 45 percent each. The poll of 500 Pennsylvania voters was taken Nov. 17-20. It had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

A Rasmussen poll released last Sunday showed Romney leading Obama slightly in Florida. The poll put Romney at 46 percent among likely voters, with Obama at 42 percent. When matched up against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who in several recent GOP primary polls has seized the lead away from Romney and businessman Herman Cain, Obama was leading by just 2 points. The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted Nov. 17 and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

A set of Quinnipiac University polls conducted two weeks ago also reflected a tight race in those three states, at least when Obama was matched up against Romney. The polls showed Obama slightly ahead in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and Romney slightly ahead in Florida.

Biden mentioned at a fundraiser in late September that the campaign was working on its battleground state strategy.

At the time, Biden said the campaign was preparing to compete in 12 battleground states. He described Obama's campaign operation as "the best presidential ground game that's ever been put together in the history of presidential politics."

Biden is also targeting organized labor, speaking frequently with union leaders in Ohio ahead of a vote earlier this month on a state law that would have curbed collective bargaining rights for public workers. After voters struck down the measure, Biden traveled to Cleveland to celebrate the victory with union members.

And while Obama may have declared that he won't be commenting on the Republican presidential field until there's a nominee, Biden is following no such rules. He's calling out GOP candidates by name, and in true Biden style, he appears to be relishing in doing so.

During a speech last month to the Florida Democratic Convention, Biden singled out "Romney and Rick", criticizing Romney for saying the government should let the foreclosure crisis hit rock bottom, and hammering Texas Gov. Rick Perry's assertion that he would send U.S. troops into Mexico.

And he took on the full GOP field during an October fundraiser in New Hampshire, saying "There is no fundamental difference among all the Republican candidates."

Democratic officials said Biden will follow in the long-standing tradition of vice presidents playing the role of attack dog, allowing Obama to stay out of the fray and appear more focused on governing than campaigning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.