COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The longest walk parents can make, Vice President Joe Biden often says, is upstairs to tell the children they've lost their job.
"Millions have been stripped of their dignity," Biden told an Ohio audience last year. "It's time to restore their dignity."
Biden, who spoke frequently of his blue-collar roots in Scranton, Pa., during the 2008 presidential campaign, is reprising his role as one of the Obama administration's top surrogates on the economy and an empathetic voice in industrial Midwestern states hard hit by the recession.
The former Delaware senator is expected to play a similar role in the 2012 campaign, focusing on Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. President Barack Obama carried them in 2008, but each elected Republican governors in 2010.
A large swath of the Midwest, including Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin, which Obama also won, are considered prime targets for Republicans next year.
"He obviously has deep, deep roots in the industrial Midwest running from Pennsylvania right across and he'll be very valuable there," Obama strategist David Axelrod told reporters in Chicago this past week.
Biden, who was scheduled to speak at the Ohio Democratic Party's annual dinner Saturday, has assailed moves by GOP governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to strip away collective bargaining rights from most public workers.
He's also criticized efforts by Republicans in Congress to turn Medicare into a program with federal subsidies for beneficiaries who would seek coverage from private insurers.
The vice president has defended Obama's handling of the economy, pointing to tough decisions to seek an economic stimulus package and rescue U.S. automakers. But his pitch often turns personal, drawing on his father's decision to move the family to Delaware in the 1950s in search of a job.
"There's still a long way to go. There are still millions of women and men who are like the family I was raised in," Biden told Democrats in New Hampshire last month. "When a recession hit, we knew someone sitting around my dad's kitchen table ... was going to lose their job."
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said Biden "has the ability to express what a lot of people feel when it comes to their anxieties over the economy and job loss, their kids. I think he does a really good job of identifying with those concerns and expressing them."
Ahead of Biden's visit, Republicans countered that Obama's policies led to GOP gains in 2010 and have failed to revitalize the economy.
"All the visits in the world from President Obama, Vice President Biden and other top-level surrogates won't change the administration's job-killing policies," said Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Tronovitch.
Largely under the radar, Biden has maintained a busy travel schedule, appearing in more than 150 political events in 2009 and 2010, including 20 in Ohio and 14 in Pennsylvania. In 2011, he had appeared at more than a dozen political events before the Ohio dinner.
Fundraisers planned for Monday in Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn., were postponed so Biden could meet with Senate leaders about efforts to increase the government's borrowing limit, aides said.