Biden says middle class 'buried' the last 4 years, Republicans pounce

Vice President Biden said Tuesday that the middle class has been "buried the last four years" -- a practically gift-wrapped gaffe that Republicans immediately grabbed to hammer President Obama on the eve of the first presidential debate.

Biden made the remark at a campaign stop in Charlotte, N.C., in the course of slamming Republican tax policies which Democrats claim would cut taxes for the rich and hike them for the middle class.

"This is deadly earnest," Biden said. "How they can justify -- how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that's been buried the last four years. How in the lord's name can they justify raising their taxes with these tax cuts?"

Mitt Romney, it turns out, couldn't agree more with the first part.

He tweeted: "Agree with @JoeBiden, the middle class has been buried the last 4 years, which is why we need a change in November #CantAfford4More."

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Running mate Paul Ryan echoed, saying at a rally in Iowa that "we need to stop digging" and elect Romney.

Both the Romney campaign and The Republican National Committee got to work blasting out a clip of the comment Tuesday afternoon, in what the Obama campaign decried as a "desperate and out-of-context attack."

But Republicans used the remark to hammer home claims that Obama's economic policies have hurt the middle class, in advance of a debate where the economy is sure to feature prominently.

An RNC official told "Joe Biden said what so many Americans are feeling every day. For four years, the middle class has been buried by Obama's failed policies from higher taxes to more debt which is why he has a difficult time explaining why he deserves another term in the White House."

A Romney campaign email also included numerous examples of the middle class being "buried" during Obama's term -- by debt, by high unemployment and by falling incomes.

An Obama campaign official countered, blaming Republican policies for crushing the middle class -- well before Obama took office.

"As the Vice President has been saying all year and again in his remarks today, the middle class was punished by the failed Bush policies that crashed our economy -- and a vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is a return to those failed policies. With more than five million private-sector jobs created since 2010, the Vice President and President Obama will continue to help the middle class recover and move the nation forward," the official said.

The first presidential debate will be held Wednesday in Denver and will focus on domestic policy.

Fox News' Nick Kalman contributed to this report.