By Joy Lin and Nick Kalman
Stopping by a farm-to-table restaurant in Muscatine, Iowa, for lunch, Vice President Joe Biden told reporters to carry this message to his Republican rival for the job: "You can let the congressman know I'm eating Wisconsin cheese soup."Â
It was Biden's first -- and last -- friendly overture of the day to GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who was also campaigning Monday in the Hawkeye State. With 50 days to go until Election Day and the latest polls showing Iowa as one of the few battleground states still up for grabs, both men were courting voters who are eligible to cast their ballots beginning Sept. 27. Â
Ryan, staking out his own turf, emphasized the record-breaking national debt and and unloaded on the Obama administration.
"President Obama, when he was running for president, said that a $10.6 trillion debt was unpatriotic," Ryan said during a rally in Des Moines. "Itâs a $16 trillion debt now, I wonder what he would call that."
Ryan said the share of national debt held by each American has shot up dramatically since the day of Obama's presidential inauguration, skyrocketing from from $35,000 a person to $51,000 a person.Â
"We can't keep doing this, and if we donât get ahead of this problem, if we donât tackle these problems, they will tackle us," Ryan said.
While the congressman campaigned in Des Moines, Biden was touring the southeast region of Iowa. Pointing to the trade complaint against China that the Obama administration filed Monday with the WTO, Biden amplified Obama's pledge to take on unfair trade practices, and he unleashed an assault on the Romney-Ryan ticket for making "laughable" promises to be more aggressive. Â
"We're not the only ones who think it's laughable," Biden said. He pointed to a Xinhua article from Friday. "I seldom ever quote Chinese, official Chinese government news agency -- seriously. This is what the Chinese government news agency said and I quote: 'It's rather ironic that a considerable portion of this China-battering politician's wealth was actually obtained by doing business with Chinese companies before he entered politics.'"
Biden concluded, "The fact is there's nothing that I can see that Romney has done, that Governor Romney has done, or has proposed to do, that will in any way stand up to unfair trade practices for China, or any other country."
The Obama campaign is making a bet that the auto bailout and anti-China trade rhetoric will play well in the Midwest. Given the latest Fox News poll shows that fiscal concerns rank second on the list of issues most important to voters, Ryan is hoping the staggering debt figures will resonate with Iowan voters.
"Iowa, you have the lowest average credit card debt in the nation," Ryan said. "People in Iowa live within their means. You have governors who balance the budget. Youâre frugal."
Both candidates made an appeal on the stump to early voters. Turnout will be key in clinching this purple state, which went to Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008. Dropping by a campaign office here in Ottumwa, Biden told volunteers, "We're going to be considerably outspent in this campaign so it's down to a ground game. ... I think we're going ot have the best ground game in the history of presidential politics."
Thirty-six percent of Hawkeye voters cast their ballot before election day in 2008, and the Obama campaign is counting on early voting turnout to give them a competitive edge, with 67 offices across the state. "The volunteer network certainly an advantage we have here," Erin Seidler, an Iowa communications director for the Obama campaign, said.