ASHEVILLE, NC -- Inadvertently touching off a fresh round of attacks over the efficacy of the president's economic policies, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the middle class has been "buried over the last four years."
"How they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried the last four years!" Biden said of Republicans during a campaign event in Charlotte.
Republicans immediately jumped on the remark, with a Romney spokeswoman calling it a "stunning admission" of Barack Obama's failure to jump-start the economy during his tenure as president.
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan jumped in the fray during an event in Burlington Iowa, saying that "we need to stop digging by electing Mitt Romney the next President of the United States."
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"Of course the middle class has been buried," Ryan agreed. "They are being buried by regulations, they are being buried by taxes…they are being buried by borrowing, they are being buried by the Obama Administration’s economic failures. You see the Obama economic agenda failed not because it was stopped, it failed because it was passed."
And GOP candidate Mitt Romney himself engaged on Twitter, writing on his official account that he "agree[s] with @JoeBiden, the middle class has been buried the last 4 years, which is why we need a change in November."
The Obama campaign said in a statement that the vice president was referring to the prolonged damage caused by Bush-era policies that led to the economic downturn.
"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."
Late this afternoon the Romney campaign added one more voice to the chorus of voices mocking the Vice President for his comments, putting fire-breathing surrogate John Sununu on a conference call with reporters.
"Today is a very important day in American history: Vice President Biden finally got something right when he made the admission that the middle class has been buried in the last four years under President Obama," Sununu began, before launching into a checklist of what he said were President Obama's economic failures.
Sununu conceded he did not believe that the attack on Biden's comments was likely to change voters' minds on its own, but said that it "sets the stage" for tomorrow's debate, which is designed to focus on domestic policy.
Garrett Haake contributed to this report