Vice-president tells supporters in Florida that Romney's 47% remarks show a 'profound misunderstanding' of America

Joe Biden continued his criticism of Mitt Romney on Saturday, telling a 2,000-strong crowd in Florida that does not recognise Romney's vision of America as a country dependent on government handouts.

The vice-president was campaigning in south-west Florida, a traditionally Republican part of the state, and said that Romney's infamous "47%" remarks – where a leaked video showed Romney insist that 47% of Americans paid no federal income tax and thought of themselves as victims – showed a "profound misunderstanding" of the American people.

"When I hear this talk of a culture of dependency, not just from Romney and [Paul] Ryan, but from this new Republican party … I don't recognize the country they're talking about," Biden said.

"The American people are so much better, so much stronger, take so much more responsibility than these guys give them credit for."

Biden's remarks come as Romney and Barack Obama prepare to square off in the first of three presidential debates in Denver on Wednesday night. Obama will be aiming to convince sceptical Americans that he can accomplish in a second term what he could not in his first, while Romney, anxious to keep the election race from slipping away, needs to that he is a credible and trusted alternative to the president.

"The burden in many ways is heavier on Romney," says Wayne Fields of Washington University in St Louis. "What we see right now is an uncertainty about whether he's ready for the job."

The Denver debate, 90 minutes devoted to domestic policy, airs live at 9pm ET. Romney and Obama debate again on October 16 in Hempstead, New York, and again on October 22 in Boca Raton. Biden and Paul Ryan will have their lone debate on October 11 in Danville, Kentucky.

Biden also revealed in Florida that he and Obama had been on the job less than a week when a top economic adviser happened to mention that the US was facing a trillion-dollar budget deficit.

As Biden tells it, the president replied: "But I haven't done anything yet!"

Biden, who was speaking at a rally in Fort Myers, blamed the deficit on the Bush administration. Bush "put two wars on a credit card" and gave tax cuts to the wealthy after inheriting a balanced budget and revenue surplus from the Clinton administration, Biden said.

Ryan, Romney's running mate, came in for criticism for rejecting bipartisan proposals that would reduce the deficit – criticism that could represent part Biden's strategy when the pair go head-to-head in Danville.

Biden said: "He [Ryan] wouldn't even vote to let it get to the House of Representatives and Senate to vote on it. Why? Because they will not vote for a single solitary reduction in the debt if it includes one dollar in new taxes for millionaires.

"Not even one dollar. That's a fact."

On Saturday, the Romney campaign announced plans for his wife Ann to speak at a rally on Monday in Henderson, Nevada, where Obama is planning three days of private debate preparation.

© Guardian News and Media 2012