By: CNN Political Reporter Shannon Travis
Sarasota, Florida (CNN) – On a day that saw the return to presidential campaigning – with positive, more subdued messages amid Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath – Vice President Joe Biden stood out for intensity: charging harder than usual against his Republican opponents after a widely criticized and disputed claim from the Romney campaign.
During a campaign event in Sarasota, Florida, Biden raged against a fresh Romney ad, accusing the GOP nominee of “desperation in the last hours of this campaign,” “trying to scare the living devil” out of voters, and of pushing “an outrageous lie.”
At issue: an assertion from Team Romney that’s sparked so much controversy in the closing days of the election that a chorus of newspapers and generally politically-shy car executives have weighed in.
The claim from first a TV ad and then one on radio: that President Obama’s actions in the auto bailout caused carmaker Jeep to move the manufacture of Jeeps to China costing domestic jobs. And that GM is also building new vehicles in China as well, also at the expense of American jobs. Over the past few days, Chrysler executives have rolled out multiple statements essentially labeling it false as have GM executives.
Biden, along with former president Bill Clinton, hit back against the claim during a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday.
But not with the gusto he did at Wednesday’s event, thundering at length.
“They are running the most scurrilous ad in Ohio…. one of the most flagrantly dishonest ads I can ever remember in my political career,” Biden said.
“It’s an outrageous lie. A lie, a lie that is so deceptive and so patently untrue that the Chrysler corporation, including the chairman of the board of Chrysler, they actually spoke up.”
“They don’t want to get involved in presidential politics but they spoke up they said quote-I’m going to quote, ‘a leap that will be difficult even for professional circus acrobats,'” Biden added.
“Why would they do this?” Biden said of the Romney campaign. “Why would they do this in the face of the overwhelming facts contradicting them?”
He then attempted to answer his own question.
“I’ll tell you why I think they’re doing it. They’re trying to scare the living devil out of a group of people who have been hurt so badly over the last, because of the previous four years we came to office.”
And in a twist, Biden essentially said the scare tactics are working with Ohio autoworkers.
“These are auto workers waking up, waking up in their communities, just a couple of days ago to see this ad and guess what: they were calling, thousands of them were calling their UAW [United Auto Worker] reps, ‘Is it true? Is it true? Is Jeep really going to leave? Is the announcement they made true? Are they going to shut down our plant?'” Biden said.
“What a cynical, cynical thing to do.”
“To go out and try to scare these people for electoral reasons at the end, to say something that’s so untrue,” Biden added. “Look, Jeep is doing fine. Jeep is going to do even better. They’re going to grow and like I said Jeep isn’t cutting jobs they’re adding jobs.”
The Romney campaign was asked to respond to the vice president’s statement that the ad is an “outrageous lie.”
“We’ve got an ad out that we believe makes the case for why Gov. Romney would be stronger for the auto industry and why the auto industry’s an important part of a strong economy,” Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told reporters traveling with the campaign.
“They’ve got an ad that they’re using to make their case to the public, and we’ll leave that with voters.”
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan commented in a separate statement distributed to reporters.
“American taxpayers are on track to lose $25 billion as a result of President Obama’s handling of the auto bailout, and GM and Chrysler are expanding their production overseas,” Ryan said. “These are facts that voters deserve to know as they listen to the claims President Obama and his campaign are making. President Obama has chosen not to run on the facts of his record, but he can’t run from them.”
The auto bailout looms large in Ohio. Many voters there either work for the industry or otherwise have ties to it. Many have cited Romney’s opposition to the bailout – and his now famous 2008 op-ed titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” – as a possible reason he’s frequently trailed President Obama in Ohio polls, although recently by small margins.