YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — They are old friends and sometime political rivals, each a gregarious, backslapping politician and legendary – some would say long-winded – talker.
So when Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton came together Monday on the campaign trail, they seemed to energize each other as they competed to lay out the best case for sending President Barack Obama and Biden back to the White House.
Clinton got the ball rolling, introducing Biden with a speech that reprised some of his lines from the Democratic National Convention last month while offering a new attack on Romney's claim in a campaign speech last week that automaker Chrysler was shutting down some North American operations to make its Jeep brand vehicles in China.
Even Jeep said "that's the biggest load of bull in the world that they would ever shut down American operations," Clinton said. An earlier statement from Chrysler said the company "has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China," but is "simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world's largest auto market."
Clinton said Obama told him the Jeep claim "hurt my feelings," because the first new car Obama ever owned was a Jeep.
Clinton also said Romney's $5 trillion tax cut proposal "makes George W. Bush look like a piker." Bush "must have been asleep at the switch, to only add $1 trillion" to the federal deficit, Clinton said. The Romney campaign has also been critical of Obama for his handling of deficit spending.
Clinton called Romney `s tax-and-spending plan, which lacks many specifics, a "hide-and-seek budget": and said Romney "ties himself in more knots than a Boy Scout does in a knot-tying contest" on the auto bailout and other issues.
Not to be outdone, Biden said Romney's claims about the auto industry were "bizarre,'" adding: "This guy pirouettes more than a ballerina."
Biden told about 4,800 people at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown that it was something of a turnaround for him to be introduced by Clinton, since he had often introduced Clinton when Biden was in the Senate and Clinton was serving two terms as president.
The 69-year-old Biden called it a pleasure to work with the 66-year-old Clinton, then and now.
The most recent time he spoke ahead of Clinton was at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, when Biden spoke before Clinton's prime-time address. Clinton spoke in a time slot normally reserved for the vice president.
Biden was a fill-in for Obama, who canceled scheduled appearances with Clinton Monday in Florida and Ohio because of Hurricane Sandy.
The Obama campaign announced shortly after the Youngstown event that Biden was canceling scheduled stops Tuesday elsewhere in Ohio, as well as an event scheduled for Thursday in his hometown of Scranton, Pa. Biden has two events in Florida scheduled for Wednesday.
If there was any sense of rivalry, Biden did not show it. He frequently quoted Clinton and the two men gripped arms as they greeted supporters before and after the 2 speeches. Biden's 36-minute speech was three minutes longer than Clinton's.
Biden said in his remarks that he had been all over Ohio and enjoyed all of it, except when he returned to his hotel at night and saw Romney attack ads saying he will be tougher on China than Obama and Biden.
"As President Clinton said in a different context, that takes a lot of brass" Biden said.
Clinton, seated behind Biden on a tall stool, roared with laughter. At other points, Clinton clapped his hands, held his chin on his hand and pumped his fist as Biden spoke.
Picking up where Clinton left off, Biden said Romney's comments about Jeep moving jobs out of Ohio were offensive.
"I mean, what are you talking about? I have never seen anything like that. It's an absolutely patently false assertion," Biden said.
"Ladies and gentlemen, have they no shame? Romney will say anything – absolutely anything – to win," Biden said.
Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Romney, denied the allegations by Clinton and Biden.
"It appears the Obama campaign is less concerned with engaging in a meaningful conversation about President Obama's failed policies and more concerned with arguing against facts about their record they dislike. The American people will see their desperate arguments for what they are," Williams said.
Biden also said he was offended and "frustrated" by Romney's caught-on-tape comments in which he described 47% of Americans as dependent on government and unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.