Updated: 6:02 p.m. ET
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday branded a much-criticized Ohio ad campaign by Republican nominee Mitt Romney "an outrageous lie" and cast it as a character issue that should matter to all voters, not just those in Ohio.
In TV and radio ads running in Ohio, Romney suggests that Chrysler and GM are shipping jobs to China and that Romney, who opposed the Obama administration bailout that revived U.S. automakers, is the true champion of the industry. Fact-checkers, both car companies, and the Obama campaign have accused Romney of flagrant distortions.
Biden took the rhetoric to new heights on Wednesday. The Ohio ad, he told a rally here, says Obama forced Chrysler into bankruptcy so that "Italians could take over Chrysler and ship Jeep manufacturing to China. ... It's an outrageous lie. A lie, a lie that is so deceptive and so patently untrue" that Chrysler executives have felt compelled to point out repeatedly that not only are they not sending U.S. jobs anywhere, they are adding shifts and workers at U.S. plants.
Speaking on the issue in a hard-fought swing state that is far from Ohio and is not dependent on the auto industry, Biden said the election comes down to trust. Romney "is desperate to convince Ohio voters that he's ... committed to the U.S. auto industry, no matter how much confusion he must sow to do it," Biden said. "Folks, the president's job is not to sow confusion. It's to plant the seeds of confidence. Presidential elections are predominantly about character ... Character, character, character."
Obama "says what he means and he stands by what he says," Biden said. "And that's one thing his opponent has not done. He has not stood by anything he has said. So ask yourself in this election, who do you trust?"
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, responding to Biden at a campaign event in Racine, Wis., in his congressional district, said Democrats were trying to hide from "inconvenient" facts. "Today you might have heard that Joe Biden again was at it again. Today he was talking about the government bailout, which they keep touting as an unqualified success story," Ryan said.
"The facts, they speak for themselves. President Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, taxpayers still stand to lose $25 billion dollars in the president's politically managed bankruptcy. These companies, Chrysler in particular we know this story, are now choosing to expand manufacturing overseas. These are the facts. Those facts are inconvenient for the president but no one disputes them."
Chrysler has said it may produce some Jeeps in China to serve the Chinese market. The company says no U.S. jobs would be affected and in fact it is expanding at home. The consensus among analysts is that Obama's 2009 decision to provide government loans to GM and Chrysler while they went through bankruptcy likely saved the companies and more than 1 million jobs. Romney opposed the loans and said the companies should have relied on private capital. However, the episode unfolded during the depths of the recession and analysts note that such capital was not available.
Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said Ryan was "forced to do Mitt Romney's dirty work in Wisconsin today - telling blatant falsehoods about the auto rescue in a desperate attempt to salvage their campaign. But the American people aren't going to buy it."
Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Romney, was asked by reporters on the Romney plane from Tampa to Miami to comment on Biden's characterization of the Romney ad campaign as "an outrageous lie." Madden replied, "We've got an ad out that we believe makes the case for why Governor Romney would be stronger for the auto industry and why the auto industry's an important part of a strong economy. They've got an ad that they're using to make their case to the public, and we'll leave that with voters."