TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden made an aggressive entry into the 2012 campaign Thursday, calling out Mitt Romney and the other Republican presidential hopefuls by name for their failure to support the auto bailout.
In his first major campaign address, Biden cast President Barack Obama as an advocate for the middle class, while labeling Romney, Gingrich and Rick Santorum as protectors of the privileged.
"If you give any one of these guys the keys to the White House, they will bankrupt the middle class," Biden told a crowd gathered at a United Auto Workers hall in Toledo, in politically important Ohio.
Biden directed much of his fire at Romney, the GOP front-runner. He criticized the former Massachusetts governor for saying he would have let the auto industry go bankrupt and predicting the bailout would turn the car companies into the "living dead."
"The president didn't flinch," Biden said. "This is a man with steal in his spine."
Thursday's speech marked the first of four general election events Biden will hold in the coming weeks aimed at drawing a sharper contrast between Obama and his Republican rivals, namely Romney.
Biden was greeted at the union hall with chants of "Go Joe, Go!" and "Four More Years." The crowd behind him held Obama-Biden 2012 signs.
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