WASHINGTON, Oct 2 (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told a campaign rally on Tuesday that the middle class has been buried for the past four years, just longer than President Barack Obama's time in the White House.
Republicans immediately seized on what they termed a "stunning admission" by Biden as evidence that Obama's policies have been bad for the economy, just a day before Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney meet in their first presidential debate.
Discussing what the Obama campaign contends are Romney's plans to raise taxes on most Americans to fund tax cuts for the wealthy, Biden made his comment in an emotional speech to a crowd of about 1,050 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"This is deadly earnest. How they can justify ... raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried the last four years? How in the Lord's name can they justify raising their taxes and these tax cuts?" he asked.
Voters say the struggling U.S. economy is the most important issue in the election, and Obama's Democrats and Romney's Republicans have both been jockeying over which would be better economic stewards for average Americans.
"Under President Obama, the middle class has suffered from crushing unemployment, rising prices and falling incomes," Amanda Henneberg, a Romney spokeswoman, said in a statement.
The U.S. presidential election is Nov. 6. (Reporting By Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)