US Vice President Joe Biden set off a campaign firestorm today by saying in the once slave-owning state of Virginia that Mitt Romney's banking policies would "put y'all back in chains."
The Romney campaign accused President Barack Obama's camp of stooping to new lows and of using the tactics of "demonization" as the president's camp snapped back, accusing Republicans of "hypocritical" outrage.
"Look at their budget and what they're proposing," Biden told the crowd in Danville, Virginia.
"In the first hundred days (Romney's) going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street," Biden said.
"They're going to put y'all back in chains."
Romney's camp issued a swift condemnation of Biden, and accused the president of mandating personal attacks to disguise a failed record.
"In case anyone was wondering just how low President Obama could go in his campaign for re-election, we now know he's willing to say that Governor Romney wants to put people back in chains," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
"Whether it's accusing Mitt Romney of being a felon, having been responsible for a woman's tragic death or now wanting to put people in chains, there's no question that because of the president's failed record he's been reduced to a desperate campaign based on division and demonization."
Saul's comments referred to an Obama advisor's claim that Romney may have committed a felony or lied to voters about his tax returns.
An attack ad by a pro-Obama group featured a steel worker who claimed that Romney's investment firm Bain Capital was responsible for him losing his job and health insurance, which contributed to the death of his wife from cancer.
The Obama campaign dismissed the Romney camp's complaints about the choice of words from the legendarily gaffe-prone Biden.
"For months, Speaker Boehner, Congressman Ryan, and other Republicans have called for the 'unshackling' of the private sector from regulations that protect Americans from risky financial deals and other reckless behavior that crashed our economy," said Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.
"Since then, the Vice President has often used a similar metaphor to describe the need to 'unshackle' the middle class.
"Today's comments were a derivative of those remarks, describing the devastating impact letting Wall Street write its own rules again would have on middle class families.
"We find the Romney campaign's outrage over the vice president's comments today hypocritical, particularly in light of their own candidate's stump speech questioning the president's patriotism.
"Now, let's return to that 'substantive' debate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promised 72 hours ago, but quickly abandoned."