LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden denounced Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney on Tuesday as a candidate with something to hide.
Biden, campaigning for President Barack Obama in the battleground of Nevada, told Hispanic leaders that Romney doesn't live up to the openness that his father represented when he ran for president 44 years ago. The vice president said Romney's father, George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns when he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 1968.
In a speech to the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, Biden accused Romney of releasing only one year of his tax returns, "making a lie of the old adage: Like father, like son."
Romney has released his 2010 tax return and an estimate for 2011.
Biden said Romney's father "released 12 years of tax returns because, as he said, 'One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.'"
Biden added, to applause from the audience, that Romney "wants you to show your papers, but he won't show us his!"
The remarks underscored the Obama campaign's latest effort to portray Romney as secretive and highlighted Romney's past hardline immigration stance.
Maria Castro, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate from Phoenix, echoed Biden, saying of Romney: "I think it's hypocritical that he is holding the immigrant community accountable, but he won't be held accountable."
La Raza is a national Latino advocacy and civil rights group. Some in the crowd said they supported Obama in 2008 and planned to do so again this year.
Romney campaign adviser Hector Barreto accused the Obama campaign of "desperation" with an attack aimed at diverting attention from unemployment and jobs.
"They have to change the subject," Barreto said at the NCLR conference. "Jobs and the economy are the foremost issues in everyone's minds, especially Hispanics."
In a statement, Barreto and Florida state Sen. Anitere Flores pointed to recent reports showing the jobless rate nationally still above 8 percent, and Barreto called the situation "precarious" for Hispanics, with almost 1 in 3 between the ages of 16 and 19 unable to find work.
Flores accused Obama of breaking a promise to reform immigration in his first year in office as "yet another broken promise to the Latino voters who helped elect him."
Biden's speech soared from whispered remembrances about growing up in a middle class home to warnings about what a Romney presidency would be like to an exhortation to the crowd to support Obama.
"Close your eyes and imagine what the Supreme Court will look like after four years of Gov. Romney," Biden said. "Imagine what it will act like. Imagine what it will mean for civil rights, voting rights, and for so much we have fought so hard for."
After the luncheon address, Biden made an unannounced visit to a U.S. Vets Inc. retraining center in downtown Las Vegas, where he and his wife, Jill Biden, shook hands and chatted with 32 veterans and several life skills instructors and administrators of the nonprofit agency.
"Housing, you deserve. Help, you deserve. It ain't a handout. No one's doing you a favor," he said. "You deserve everything we can do for you."
The vice president and his wife were due to travel later to Utah, where Biden was scheduled to host a campaign fundraiser at a private home in Park City, Utah, and Jill Biden was scheduled to meet with military families at an Air National Guard base in Salt Lake City.