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“Any honest expert will tell you in 2009 no one was lining up to lend General Motors or Chrysler any money, or for that matter to lend money to anybody. That includes Bain Capital. They weren’t lining up to lend any money,” he added.

Bain Capital is the private equity firm Romney once headed.

Biden was as aggressive in his defense of Obama’s policies as he was in his criticism of the GOP.

Of Obama’s decision to press forward with the auto bailout, he said: “The president didn’t flinch. This is a man with steel in his spine.”

The day took Biden from a union hall, where he was greeted with chants of “Go, Joe, Go!” and “Four More Years,” to a shift change outside a Toledo Chrysler plant that makes steering columns to an elementary school in Perrysburg, Ohio.

With the vice president now fully engaged in the campaign, the Obama re-election team sees an opportunity to rely on a strong and forceful defend

er of the president to build support among Democrats, while allowing Obama himself to stay above the political fray for as long as possible.

While the three campaign principles — Obama, Biden and first lady Michelle Obama — have all been headlining fundraisers for several months, officials say the president won’t hold campaign-sanctioned public events until after Republicans pick their nominee.

Michelle Obama’s campaign strategy is still being crafted, though she is expected to play an active role in the general election.

Biden’s campaign strategy has been in the works for several months, and its early rollout underscores his importance to the Democratic ticket.

In the lead-up to the November election, Biden is expected to target the big three political battlegrounds — Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Obama carried all three in 2008, but he will face an uphill climb in each come November given the toll the recession has taken on the states.

The campaign’s goal is to use the vice president’s strengths to counteract Obama’s perceived weaknesses.

As a long-serving member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden cemented his reputation as an unyielding supporter of Israel, winning the respect of many in the Jewish community. And his upbringing in a working-class Catholic family from Scranton, Pa., gives the vice president a valuable political intangible: He empathizes with the struggles of blue-collar Americans.

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Associated Press writers Brian Bakst in Elgin, Ill., and Steve Peoples in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.