TOLEDO, Ohio -- In the White House's most aggressive singling out of its Republican rivals to date, Vice President Joe Biden slammed Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum by name during his first public campaign event of the 2012 cycle.
Addressing more than 500 union members and supporters at United Auto Workers Local 12 here, Biden touted the administration's backing of the auto industry bailout, saying that the GOP presidential candidates were "dead wrong" in their opposition to the measure.
"Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich," he said. "These guys have a fundamentally different economic philosophy than we do."
He specifically noted Romney's 2008 op-ed entitled "Let Detroit go bankrupt" -- greeted with raucous boos -- as well as Gingrich's labeling of the bailout as a "mistake," and Santorum's statement that the measure catered to Obama's political interests.
"Look, I want to tell you what's real bankruptcy," the vice president said. "The economic theories of Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney. They are bankrupt."
Biden dismissed as inaccurate the Republican sentiment that, without government intervention, the private sector would have stepped in to the void to aid the ailing automotive sector. With a particular tweak at Romney, Biden noted that Bain Capital -- the company that Romney once led -- declined an offer from the President's Auto Task Force to invest in GM's European operations.
In contrast, he said the president showed his "spine of steel" by backing the financial rescue of an "iconic industry America invented."
In his characteristic booming voice, Biden stated at the beginning of his remarks, "We bet on American ingenuity; we bet on you; and we won!"
The top surrogate's utterance of the candidates' names is a departure from the president's own rhetoric. The White House has largely avoided specific mention of any of the candidates, even as the DNC maintains a sharp focus on delegate-frontrunner Romney.
The vice president also argued that Democrats represent economic fairness in comparison to what he described as crony-embracing Republicans.
"Stated simply, we're about promoting the private sector," he said. "They're about protecting the privileged sector."
Biden was introduced by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who just defeated fellow Democrat Dennis Kucinich in a redistricting-fueled primary contest. The event had a notably political feel, with chants of, "Four more years!" and, "Go, Joe, go!" reverberating from the sign-wielding crowd.
This was not Biden's first visit to UAW Local 12; he visited the same venue in October 2010 to stump for then-Gov. Ted Strickland.