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Clinton needles Ryan the day after the VP debate

 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- After Thursday night's vice presidential debate, former President Bill Clinton said he now sympathizes with Paul Ryan, the man he said had the "brass" to criticize President Barack Obama's Medicare savings in health care reform.

Stumping here for the Indiana Democratic party on Friday, Clinton said Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan "let the cat out of the bag" when he squared off against Joe Biden in Kentucky last night.

"You know, I kind of sympathize with Congressman Ryan, he has to defend now Gov. Romney's position that the $716 billion in Medicare savings in the president's budget -- that the congressman voted for -- is somehow a ripoff even though it was in his budget too."

Fact checkers have debunked GOP claims that Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare, and on the stump Clinton has vigorously attempted to defend Democrats record on the hot button issue, most notable at the Democratic National Convention, when he satirically quipped that Ryan had "brass" for critiquing cuts so similar to ones proposed in the budget he authored.

Romney campaign spokesperson Amanda Henneberg countered that "[Obama] has done nothing to reform Medicare for the long haul and prevent it from going bankrupt. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a plan that protects Medicare for current seniors and preserves and strengthens it for future retirees."

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But it was more than just Ryan's stance on Medicare that stood to Clinton during last night's debate.  He used his stop in Indiana, where the auto industry plays an important role, to take a jab at Ryan's answer to a debate question about Romney's opposition to the auto bailout.

"When Mr. Ryan said last night that Gov. Romney was a car guy, I thought 'Well if having an elevator to stack them counts, I guess he was,' Clinton said. "Let me tell you something about this car thing, it was not a bailout, it was a restructuring that we as taxpayers participated in because the banks were unwilling to save the automobile companies."

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The high profile Democratic surrogate was here for the "Hoosier Common Sense" rally for Indiana Democratic senate candidate Joe Donnelly and gubernatorial candidate John Gregg. Both races have garnered plenty of national attention and give the Hoosier State a rare chance to elect both a Democratic senator and governor in the same year.

Clinton, who stressed the need for bipartisanship in Washington, sought to paint Donnelly's opponent, Republican Richard Mourdock, as an extremist unwilling to work across the aisle.  It's a position Mourdock himself has seemed to at times endorse, like in May when he told NBC's Chuck Todd that "bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view." The Republican senate candidate unseated 36-year incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar in a primary where one of his main attack lines dealt was Lugar's history of bipartisanship.

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"I was raised to believe that nobody's right all the time. Now, maybe Mr. Mourdock is, I don't know. He's way right all the time, I know that," Clinton said to loud applause at North Central High School.

Clinton painted Rep. Mike Pence, campaigning against Gregg for governor, as an equally partisan politician largely void of a record of accomplishment. "It would be like a cold shower for Congressman Pence if he were to become governor, because in the statehouse, you don't have an option of arithmetic rules. And you can't not pass bills. you can't get re-elected like you can to Congress, apparently you can get re-elected for a dozen years and never pass a bill," said Clinton.

Also joining Clinton on stage in the Hoosier State was was former Sen. Even Bayh. Clinton told the crowd that all four men were more fiscally conservative than both Romney and Ryan "because, as I said in Charlotte, we believe in arithmetic."

Bloomberg Businessweek's Josh Green, the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, Time's Michael Crowley, and the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty discuss the next steps on the campaign trail for President Obama and Mitt Romney ahead of the next presidential debate.

The former president has had a packed schedule campaigning both for Obama and Democratic congressional candidates around the country. From Indiana, Clinton headed to Iowa to help raise funds for Democrats in the Hawkeye State.

"I didn't expect to be quite so involved in this campaign. I have now a daughter who's working for  television network and a wife who's got one of only two jobs in the government, the other being secretary of defense, that are prohibited from participating in electoral politics, so you're stuck with me," Clinton said.