ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe Reports: In an unexpected face-to-face encounter, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, Sunday boarded the press plane of Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., leading to a hostile mid-air confrontation between the two rivals.
"Hey John," said Biden when he encountered a life-size cardboard cut-out of the Republican nominee late in his flight from Wilmington, Del., to Kalispell, Mont.
Biden then grabbed the McCain cut-out by the shoulder and threw it down face-first so he could prop his foot up on the previously occupied seat and address reporters onboard the flight. McCain did not fight back.
Earlier, McCain’s life-like presence had prompted the Democrat vice-presidential candidate’s campaign to lash out at McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"I hear a cardboard cut-out of John McCain is seated comfortably in row 16 of Air Biden," said Biden spokesman David Wade before boarding the flight. "You realize you could’ve made history if you’d found a cardboard cut-out of Governor Palin, that’s the closest she would’ve been to taking tough questions from the national media since she was selected."
Since naming Palin as running mate 10 days ago, the McCain campaign has not granted any national news media interviews with her, prompting criticism from Democrats.
"Then again," Wade added. "I guess the Republicans are continuing their recent history of keeping their vice-presidential picks in secure, undisclosed locations. Yet another way that McCain-Palin is more of the same."
The $30 McCain cut-out came aboard the campaign plane courtesy of Biden’s national press corps, who purchased the life-size GOP nominee look-alike at a Virginia mall last week, leaving other cut-outs of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, languishing lonely on the store shelves.
Biden loves to joke on the trail that if his "good friend" McCain called him anytime anywhere and asked him to get on a plane to fly somewhere like Montana for an undisclosed reason, Biden would do so immediately. And he hopes that McCain would do the same for him.
No sooner had the McCain cardboard cut-out gotten settled in the press section, then he quickly became the main attraction aboard the plane, with reporters and campaign staff snapping photos with the Republican nominee. McCain, sitting rigidly upright and buckled in for safety, had Biden’s book "Promises to Keep" and a couple plates of chips and dip ready to go for the long journey.
"Oh my God, that’s funny," said a stewardess as she walked down the aisle past the VIP guest. "That’s hilarious."
McCain, unflinching, did not respond.