WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. election in November 2012 will be a "referendum" on the Obama administration's handling of the economy, Vice President Joe Biden told a Florida radio station on Thursday.
Biden said he understood Americans are unhappy about high unemployment and the sluggish economy nearly three years after Barack Obama was elected president in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s.
"Even though 50-some percent of the American people think the economy tanked because of the last administration, that's not relevant," Biden said.
"Right now we are the ones in charge and it's gotten better but it hasn't gotten good enough ... I don't blame them for being angry."
Biden phoned in to WLRN, a public radio station in south Florida, to promote Obama's $447 billion plan to create jobs.
Much of the discussion with the show's host focused on the weak housing and job markets in Florida -- a state Obama won in 2008 and is crucial to his re-election chances -- but Biden said the economy will dominate the thinking of all American voters next year.
"Understandably, totally legitimately, this is a referendum on Obama and Biden, the nature and the state of the economy," he said, echoing the views of many analysts about which factor will most influence the outcome of the election.
"It's soon going to be a choice," he added, listing various aspects of Obama's jobs bill.
Obama, who pushed through an $800 billion economic stimulus bill in 2009, has seen his approval ratings take a hit over worries about unemployment stuck above 9 percent and fears the United States could sink back into recession.
Obama, a Democrat, and his aides criticize Republicans for opposing his initiatives at nearly every turn, and he has pointed the finger at the administration of President George W. Bush for leaving the economy in crisis.
Republicans counter that Obama's spending and regulatory policies have undermined the recovery and job creation.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, asked about Biden's "referendum" remark, agreed voters would be giving a verdict on Obama's economic stewardship, but said "it's more than that."
"Every elected official who's running for office in 2012 will run on his or her record. And this president and vice president will run on their record of saving the American economy from a Great Depression," Carney told reporters.
Obama "fully expects" voters to be assessing not only his record but his vision for the future and "comparing that to whoever is the candidate for the Republican Party," he said.
(Editing by Philip Barbara)