The Romney campaign is sounding the alarm over some hyperbolic language Vice President Joe Biden used on the trail — language that Republicans have also used.
In a Tuesday campaign speech, Biden likened Wall Street’s grip on average Americans to chains. “Romney wants to let the — he said the first 100 days — he’s gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street,” Biden said at an event in Danville, Va. “They gonna put y’all back in chains.”
The Romney campaign called the comments a “new low” in a press release. Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu decried the remark, which he said have racial undertones.
“Well, there’s going to be folks across the country that will try and take that as some kind of code word that is going to suggest that the Republicans are trying to be racial in their programs,” Sununu said. “That’s ridiculous. “
But the chain analogy is used relatively often by members of both parties.
Rick Santorum invoked chains last summer to warned Iowa voters that health care reform would lull citizens into government dependency. “They will put you in chains called ‘Obamacare,’ and you will never break away,” Santorum said.
Florida Rep. Allen West went a step further, likening Obama’s programs to slavery. “He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American,” West said in July. “He’d rather you be his slave.”
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, refused to condemn West’s comments at the time, but he tweeted his disapproval of Biden’s remark Tuesday.
The Obama campaign does not believe the comments were out of line. “Bottom line is that we have no problem with those comments,” Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, said on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon.
The campaign bolstered that with an emailed statement from Cutter soon after:
“For months, Speaker Boehner, Congressman Ryan, and other Republicans have called for the ‘unshackling’ of the private sector from regulations that protect Americans from risky financial deals and other reckless behavior that crashed our economy. Since then, the Vice President has often used a similar metaphor to describe the need to ‘unshackle’ the middle class. Today’s comments were a derivative of those remarks, describing the devastating impact letting Wall Street write its own rules again would have on middle class families. We find the Romney campaign’s outrage over the Vice President’s comments today hypocritical, particularly in light of their own candidate’s stump speech questioning the President’s patriotism. Now, let’s return to that ‘substantive’ debate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promised 72 hours ago, but quickly abandoned.”
Romney press secretary Andrea Saul doubled down. “[W]e now know he’s willing to say that Gov. Romney wants to put people back in chains,” Saul said. “There’s no question that because of the President’s failed record he’s been reduced to a desperate campaign based on division and demonization.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.