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Vice President Mike Pence told CNBC on Friday that Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is "advocating a socialist agenda," just like others vying to take on President Donald Trump.
In an interview with CNBC's Eamon Javers, Pence took multiple shots at his vice presidential predecessor, the frontrunner among more than 20 Democratic candidates, while contrasting their goals with Trump's legislative agenda.
"I think the choice that we face in this country today is a choice between freedom and socialism," Pence said in the interview in his office. The vice president touted Trump as an advocate for policies including lower taxes and regulations and "better fair trade deals."
He said Biden, along with Elizabeth Warren and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, are "advocating a socialist agenda of more government, higher taxes and the same tired policies that created the malaise of the last administration where we saw less than 2% economic growth." The U.S. economy in fact saw annual growth near 3% at the peak of Obama's presidency — or above 3% depending on the metric used.
Lumping Biden with some of the most progressive voices in the race under the umbrella of socialism may be intended to harden moderate Republicans against the former vice president, as well as stoke additional infighting within the Democratic field, where the candidates are jockeying to lock down different voter bases.
Biden's campaign did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. A spokeswoman for Pence had no additional comment beyond the vice president's on-air remarks.
Pence's remarks cut directly against Biden's campaign rhetoric, in which he frames himself as a unifier and a more moderate choice among the pack of 2020 candidates. Despite Biden's frequent attacks on Trump's character and policies, he is poised to deliver a speech in Philadelphia in mid-May addressing how to bring the politically polarized country together.
Pence also criticized Biden for his recent comments downplaying China's economic threat to the U.S. "China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man," Biden said at a campaign stop in Iowa on Wednesday.
"While we hear one of the latest candidates for president ... say that China doesn't represent a competition of the United States, you know they're half of our international trade deficit," Pence told CNBC. "And forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft are a reality."
The Trump administration has been locked in what it suggests are the final stages of negotiations with China on reshaping the trade relationship between the world's two economies. When asked about recent reports that a deal may be coming as early as next week, Pence said the "negotiations are ongoing."
"I think President Trump remains very hopeful," Pence added.