CAMBRIDGE, Maryland (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden took a rare public swipe at Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on Friday, criticizing them for comments about the poor and about the federal government's automaker bailout.
Biden and President Barack Obama have been careful so far not to insert themselves into the rough and tumble of the contest to pick a Republican presidential nominee.
"I don't want to get going on these guys because I know that's not appropriate," Biden told Democratic lawmakers at a retreat in Maryland before going on to chastise the Republican front-runners by name.
The vice president singled out comments by Romney arguing against the bailout of Detroit automakers in 2008 and that foreclosures should be allowed to run their course in a deeply depressed housing market.
Romney wrote a New York Times opinion piece titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" in 2008 as bailouts of General Motors Corp and Chrysler were being weighed by the Bush administration. In October, Romney said that the foreclosure process should be "allowed to run its course and hit the bottom" to clear the way for a housing market recovery.
Biden also criticized Gingrich for suggesting that some poor people have no work ethic. In December, Gingrich said "really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working" and have no knowledge of how to earn income "unless it's illegal."
"I think they actually believe what they're saying," Biden said, adding that he sees Romney's and Gingrich's stances on issues even more at odds with Democratic views than the "obstructionist" Republicans in Congress.
He said that voters are beginning to see the stark contrasts between Republican and Democratic visions for the country's future and are beginning to feel the benefits of President Barack Obama's policies.
"The big difference between us and them is we are strongly supportive of the private sector. They're strongly supportive of the privileged sector," he said.
Biden also told the group that he believed that because of greater voter appreciation of these issues, their party would regain control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans in the November 6 elections.
"I really think we're going to win back the House," Biden said. "I think we will win based purely on the merits of our positions."
(Reporting By David Lawder)