In recent days, it seems Vice President Joe Biden has one message to the groups he addresses: Mitt Romney doesn't like you. No, he really doesn't like you.
The vice president's attack dog role, combined with the Obama campaign's need to win enough support from certain demographic groups, means that he's been carefully tailoring his attack lines against Romney for each group he's been speaking to. Not only are Romney's policies bad for you, he says, but the man just plain dislikes you -- you being blacks, Hispanics, firefighters and teachers, to list a few of Biden's more recent audiences.
Last week, Biden told a firefighter's union he doesn't think Romney "gets you... understands what you're all about" and that Republicans "act like you're the community's problem, as if you're not part of the community."
To hear Biden, tell it, Romney and the GOP harbor a similar disdain for the country's educators. Speaking Sunday to the second-largest teacher's union in the U.S., he attacked the Republican approach. "Don't tell me you value educators and pay them so little," Biden said. "Unlike our Republican friends, we don't see you as the problem. We see you as the solution."
And while Biden's message to labor and trade groups is that Republicans view them as a problem, his admonitions to minority groups are even more pointed. Addressing the National Council of La Raza earlier this month, he asked listeners to imagine a Romney Justice Department "that supports, rather than challenges, continued efforts to suppress the right to vote."
Not only would a Romney administration move the country backward on civil rights, but the GOP budget would be "devastating" to the Hispanic community, so much so that "the effects would last a generation." He painted a similarly cloudy picture to the NAACP two days later. "Did you think we'd be fighting these battles again? I didn't think we'd be back," Biden said. "I remember working with Republicans - and by the way, this ain't your father's Republican Party. ... This is not the Republican Party's view today, nor Romney's. They see a different future in which voting is harder [rather] than easier."
Again, he called on the audience to use their imagination as he provided a grim framework for the regression a Romney presidency would engender. "Just close your eyes and imagine what the Romney Justice Department will look like," he said. "Imagine when his senior adviser on constitutional issues is Robert Bork. Imagine the recommendations for who is likely to be picked as attorney general or the head of the Civil Rights Division."
It's notable Biden invoked Bork, since the rhetoric sounds not all that different from the late Ted Kennedy's scathing attack on the former Supreme Court Justice nominee, where he raised the specter "of a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government."
It's no secret that Biden hasn't shied away from the attack role customary for the No. 2 man on the ticket, leveling assaults at the Romney campaign as one of the president's most vocal surrogates. And while there have been no shortage of digs at Romney's policies and background, it's telling to look at where the fear-as-motivation -- "the other guys are out to get you" -- attacks have been deployed.
Biden hasn't used these lines in venues packed with likely swing voters. Instead, he's saved them for groups -- minorities and labor unions -- solidly in the Obama camp, but whose high turnout the incumbents will need to sustain in order to secure another term.
Presenting Romney as the anti-"fill-in-blank" candidate may be an effective way to drive the base back to the polling booth. Romney has yet to choose his vice presidential candidate, and his economy-focused attacks have been more broad and generic in nature. It remains to be seen how tough Romney's running mate will be against the president, but Biden has set the bar awfully high.