An animated Vice President Joe Biden spoke to a crowd in Council Bluffs for more than 40 minutes Thursday afternoon, his voice often nearly a whisper, then rising to a shout as he ridiculed Republican rivals Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

“They discovered the middle class,” Biden whispered, then his voice rose. “It’s like, ‘My God! There it is! It’s out there. There is a the middle class! We are concerned about it. We share your values. Whoa! God, I didn’t see you there. I don’t know how I could have overlooked you these last eight years. You were right there in front of me.'”

Ryan and Biden will debate next Thursday night.

“Congressman Ryan has now given clear definition to the vague promises and assertions that Governor Romney’s been making the last six or eight months,” Biden said in Council Bluffs. “What I find fascinating, though, is on nearly every issue they don’t tell you what they are for anymore and they deliberately misrepresent what they say we are for.”

Biden argued Republicans refuse to face the reality that reducing the deficit and debt will require raising taxes. 

“We’re going to ask the wealthy to pay more,” Biden said, then quipped: “My heart breaks (for the wealthy)” as he pounded his chest.

The crowd cheered.

“You know the phrase they always use?” Biden asked, before saying in a deep voice: “Obama and Biden want to raise taxes by a trillion dollars.”

Biden switched back to his regular speaking voice and said: “Guess what? Yes, we do — in one regard: we want to let that tax cut expire so the middle class doesn’t have to bear the burden of all that money going to the super wealthy. That’s not a tax raiser. That’s called fairness where I come from.”

Republicans immediately criticized that comment. Paul Ryan said raising taxes on the wealthy was “a tax increase on our successful job creators that will cost us 700,000 jobs.”  The Romney campaign also cited a study suggesting 8000 of those job-losses would happen in Iowa, “costing the state $2 billion in lost economic output.”

On Tuesday, Republicans also pounced when Biden said the middle class had been “buried” the last four years. On Thursday, Biden told the crowd in Council Bluffs the middle class had been “decimated” by a recession caused by Republican policies.

“Their policies put the middle class in an incredibly deep hole which we’ve been helping them climb out of for the last four years,” Biden said.

Find audio of Biden’s speech here, plus more about the vice president’s remarks in Council Bluffs.

Next week Iowa will be the site of another high-profile visit, as a Republican source says Mitt Romney will campaign in Iowa on Tuesday.  No word yet on when or where.