NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden capped a two-day visit to battleground Nevada on Thursday with some campaign rally zingers and a stop at a Las Vegas elementary school where he was mobbed by children hugging his legs.
"I wish my constituents liked me as much," Biden said, according to a pool reporter traveling with him when he visited youngsters on the way to McCarran International Airport for a flight back to Washington, D.C. "God love it!"
Republicans complained about Biden's "over-the-top rhetoric" when he used his speech at a union job training center to cast presidential challenger Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan as conservative extremists who've had to temper "new right" positions to attract more moderate GOP voters.
"This is not your father's Republican Party," Biden told a vocal audience in suburban Las Vegas that campaign officials said included about 600 people. "This is not Mitt Romney's Republican Party."
Biden referred to a book that Ryan, a GOP congressman from Wisconsin, wrote with other House Republican leaders called "Young Guns."
"Unfortunately, the bullets are aimed at you," Biden told the audience.
Brendan Buck, Romney-Ryan campaign spokesman, issued a statement calling Biden's comments "disappointing, but not all that surprising."
"In the absence of a vision or plan to move the country forward, the vice president is left only with ugly political attacks beneath the dignity of the office he occupies," Buck said. "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will bring serious leadership to Washington that will focus on an agenda of job creation and economic growth that benefits all Americans."
Biden also invoked Romney's recorded comment during a closed-door campaign fundraiser about 47 percent of Americans favoring Obama because they depend on the government and refuse to take responsibility for their lives. The vice president accused the Republicans of campaigning on negative views of "makers" and "takers" in America, with half the population dependent on the other.
The rally audience chanted "Four More Years!" ''Si Se Puede!" ''Yes We Can!" and "47 Percent!" before Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced Biden as "the man who has shown us his income tax returns," and kept up his dogged attacks on Romney with claims that the former Massachusetts governor is so unpopular in his home state that he trails President Barack Obama badly there in presidential campaign polls.
The vice president took to the stage with Nevada candidates including U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat locked in a tight Senate race against appointed GOP incumbent Dean Heller, and Nevada Senate Democratic Majority Leader Steven Horsford, the chief executive of the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas that hosted the rally. Horsford is in a close battle with Republican businessman Danny Tarkanian for Congress representing Nevada's new 4th District.
Biden accused Romney of failing to detail his presidential economic plans, recalled Obama's debate reference Tuesday to the Republican's economic promises as "sketchy," and added a tag of his own to recall a Romney aide's comment months ago about wiping the slate clean between the primary and general election campaigns.
"I don't think they were just 'sketchy,'" Biden said. "I think they were Etch-A-Sketchy."
Biden said that after two debates between the presidential candidates and one between Biden and Ryan, voters should be able to see "fundamental differences" between the two tickets.
And he set the stage for Obama's third debate with Romney on Monday in Florida on foreign policy topics.
Obama is committed to getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Biden said. The vice president said that he couldn't tell what Romney and Ryan want to do.
"Governor Romney has changed positions so many times you just never know," Biden said.
Early voting starts Saturday in Nevada.