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Biden to Firefighters: ‘The Progress We’ve Made Is in Jeopardy’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Just three days after Vice President Joe Biden spoke to a group of police officers at their convention, he took his campaign message to firefighters Wednesday, taking aim at Republican governors who, “lay the blame for this recession on you, on public sector workers.”

Biden told the International Association of Fire Fighters, who endorsed his campaign for re-election last month, that Republicans in Congress aren’t making their jobs any easier by cutting budgets and shrinking the number of firefighters on duty.

“I think this new Republican Party looks at you as both the reason for, and the solution to, this God-awful recession we inherited -- we inherited, by the way, because of their policies,” said Biden.

Biden went on to explain that President Obama and his administration understand the struggles facing the middle class. Referring to the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Biden told the crowd he’s not sure Romney understands them.

“I think part of the problem is, I don’t think he just gets you … what makes you tick, what makes you decide to go into this profession,” he said.

Clearly comfortable with the crowd, Biden said firefighters have been his best allies his whole career. In a poignant moment, the vice president recalled the 1972 car accident that killed his wife and daughter, critically injuring his two young sons.

“I owe them, and as some of you know, I owe them so much more than my career,” said Biden, of the first responders on the scene. “I owe them the life of my two boys, and I owe them a lot more.”

Biden’s family was Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Del., when his wife’s station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailer as she pulled out from an intersection.

“Who shows up like you did for my family with the jaws of life … and pulls her out?” he said.

Toward the end of his speech, the vice president touched on last week’s movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

“Folks, when it comes to firefighters, the American public is reminded every once in a while, nationally, of just what you do,” Biden said, applauding them for arriving quickly to the scene and helping victims receive the medical attention they needed.

Biden did not acknowledge shooting suspect James Holmes in his speeches Monday or Wednesday, instead praising Aurora’s first responders for their bravery under fire. He noted this valor was especially evident as crews arrived at Holmes’ apartment Friday morning to clear the booby traps he put in place to explode if somebody entered.

“You didn’t know if the whole complex would blow; whether people in the area would go,” Biden told firefighters Wednesday. “But you were there, ready to do whatever was needed if the worst happened.”

Even before their endorsement nod, the International Association of Fire Fighters made clear it’s friendly toward the Obama re-election campaign. In March, the association co-produced a Romney attack ad that ran during the Illinois primaries and featured a firefighter saying, “In times like these, we can’t afford a president that’ll take an axe to public safety.”

The vice president highlighted that job-saving sentiment Wednesday.

“I’m absolutely confident that we will lead the world in the 21st century as the world’s leading economy,” Biden told firefighters. “And one of the things we can do right now is keep you on the job, for our own safety’s sake.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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