On the day following the lone vice presidential debate of the presidential election cycle, Vice President Joe Biden took the campaign Friday afternoon to Wisconsin, the home state of his opponent, Rep. Paul Ryan, continuing the lines of attack he produced at Thursday night's Kentucky matchup, all while the Obama campaign labeled the vice president as the "happy warrior for the middle class."
"Folks, you know, I'm sure you observed last night we had a little bit of a debate with a gentleman—he is a gentleman—a gentleman from Wisconsin, Congressman Ryan," Biden said at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse to a crowd of 2,000, according to the university's chancellor. "I hardly agree with anything he says, but I want to tell you, I think he's a decent guy. And I think he has a beautiful family and is a great husband and father. And for that, I have great respect for him.
"But you know, anyone who watched that debate, I don't think there's any doubt that Congressman Ryan and I, and Gov. Romney and the president, we have a fundamentally different vision for America and, quite frankly, a fundamentally different value set," Biden added.
"The fact is that the differences that we have about the future of this country are, quite frankly, profound," he said. "They're as profound as any difference as any presidential campaign that I've observed, that I've been involved in. And the truth is that people were listening. And if they were, they know what some of those differences are, and they know how those differences can fundamentally direct the differences in this country."
But while Biden zeroed in on many of the same points he made in Thursday night's debate, the Romney campaign viewed it as a repetition of "dishonest attacks and distortions."
"Just like during last night's debate, Vice President Biden was unable to describe any vision for the future and used dishonest attacks and distortions to distract from his failed record," Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said in a prepared statement. "Over the last four years, the middle class has been 'buried' under crushing unemployment, falling incomes, and rising costs caused by the Obama-Biden administration's abysmal policies. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a plan that will create millions of new jobs, cut taxes for the middle class, and create a brighter future for all Americans."
On the debate stage Thursday night, Biden had one of his most animated moments on the trail yet, often chuckling with a wide grin across his face as Ryan spoke, but while Republicans and some in the media have characterized the vice president's debate laughter and gestures as condescending and mocking Ryan, Democrats described Biden's expressions as a sign of "passion."
"Tonight was about Joe Biden and Joe Biden was a happy warrior for the middle class," Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager, told reporters in the spin room after Thursday night's debate. "I think it was appropriate for him to show passion and have him be a happy warrior. When the other side is spending their time talking about facial gestures and laughing, you know they had a bad night."
Trying to take advantage of his performance and Ryan's stumbles Thursday night, Biden on Friday pointed to Ryan's statements on Afghanistan and abortion as examples of the stark differences between the Democratic and Republican platforms.
"I made it absolutely clear, on behalf of the president and I, that we are leaving Afghanistan in 2014, period. There is no ifs, ands or buts," Biden said. "We have trained over 315,000 Afghan military personnel. It's their responsibility to step up to their defense of their nation. We went for al Qaeda, we went for bin Laden, and we accomplished that goal. And now it's time. And they are willing. It's time for them to stand up as we draw down."
Biden noted that when Ryan was asked if a Romney-Ryan administration would guarantee it would leave Afghanistan by 2014, the congressman "said it depends. No, I'm serious. You heard it. It depends on the situation on the ground. It depends.
"Well, ladies, it depends on nothing other than the date as far as we're concerned. It's time for the Afghanis to take care of their own responsibility," Biden said. "But like almost everything, it depends. It depends on which day you ask him the question. It depends. It depends on the circumstances."
The vice president continued to rail against the Wisconsin representative and Republicans for being willing to "impose their private views" on the country on women's health issues including abortion, even arguing Romney and Ryan would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
"If anyone had a doubt about what's at stake in this election, when it comes to women's rights and the Supreme Court, I'm sure they were settled last night," Biden said. "Congressman Ryan made it very clear that he and Gov. Romney are prepared to impose their private views on everyone else. It was made clear last night that they don't believe in protecting a woman's access to health care. It was made very clear that they do not believe a woman has a right to control her own body. That's between she and her doctor. And now they say they're willing to make an exception in the case of rape and incest. Ladies and gentlemen, Congressman Ryan was a leader in the House and even blocked those exceptions."
As he tried to paint his opponents as candidates trying to protect the interests of the wealthy instead of the middle class, Biden said in Wisconsin Friday that it was time for the Republican Party to "take a pledge to the middle class" to "level the playing field," and the vice president accused the GOP ticket of harboring a negative outlook about the American people.
"I've never seen two candidates for the highest office in the land who are more negative about this country and its prospects ... than the people we're running against," Biden said. "All you hear from them is talk about a culture of dependency, America in decline. You know, I don't recognize the country they talk about."
En route to his event at the university, Biden jumped out of his SUV to greet children and teachers who were assembled to watch his motorcade drive by at Emerson Elementary with one woman telling him, "Great job last night, Mr. Vice President."
The vice president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will attend fundraisers for the campaign at private residences in Kent, Conn. and New York City, New York on Saturday.