ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe Reports: Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., Friday swept into West Virginia, the first stop the Democratic ticket has made in the Mountain State.
“We plan on competing right to the very end for every single vote here in this state,” proclaimed the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in a fiery address at a downtown Charleston plaza, blasting Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, for tying Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to President Bush in a statement on the nation’s struggling economy.
“Yesterday, literally, John McCain actually went so far as to compare Barack Obama with George W. Bush,” Biden said. “As my granddaughter Finnegan would say, ‘Hello?!’ You know what’s going on here? You know, so now John McCain is attacking the Bush budget and Bush fiscal policies, which he voted for, I might add. But folks, this is as crazy as, you know, Butch Cassidy attacking the Sundance Kid!”
“I mean, that’s a team,” Biden pointed out. “These guys have been a team. You know, they were in this together, they’ve been in this together. They’ve been, as my father would say, they’ve been joined at the hip.”
“Look, I know Halloween is coming, but John McCain is a candidate of change?” Biden asked incredulously moments later. “Whoa! Come on! John McCain and change? He needs a costume for that.”
Ten days ago in St. Clairsville, Ohio, despite McCain still leading West Virginia in the polls, Biden guaranteed a Democratic victory in the Mountain State, which would be their first since 1996.
“Which way is West ‘By God’ Virginia?” Biden asked the Buckeye State crowd. “That way? That way? Well, I want to send a message to West Virginia. We’re going to win in West Virginia. Hello West Virginia! We’re going to shock the living devil out of you all!”
Today in Charleston, an animated Biden appealed to voters by vigorously stating his support of clean coal, consistenly tying McCain to Bush, and lambasting Republican robo-calls linking Obama to former 60s terrorist William Ayers.
“We have to end this politics of division and divisiveness,” Biden demanded. “End the scurrilous phone calls that are being paid for by the McCain campaign questioning Barack Obama’s patriotism, questioning his character. Enough is enough is enough!”
The six-term senator outlined the story of Chaylee Cole, who lost her job at a call center after refusing to place these robo-calls.
“I want to read part of what Chaylee said when she was interviewed after she was fired,” Biden said of the Fairmont State University student, who attended today’s event. “She said, ‘Democrat or Republican, I wouldn’t have done this.’ End of quote. Ladies and gentlemen, Chaylee recognized that regardless of your personal politics, attacks like that, attacks like that are out of bounds.”
“Barack Obama has a spine of steel,” Biden added just afterwards. “He can take these attacks for 12 more days, but our country can’t take four more years of this divisive politics.”
With a deepened voice and mocking tone, Biden imitated the Republican ticket’s on-stage banter.
“John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, when they get on stage, I love to watch ‘em,” Biden said. “They get on, they say, they start, ‘I’m a maverick.’ ‘No, you’re a maverick. ‘We’re maverick.’ ‘We’re all maverick.’ Right?”
“Well, a good friend in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania is a guy named Bob Casey, a good friend of ours from my hometown of Scranton. And to paraphrase Bobby Casey, Sen. Casey, he said, ‘You know, you can’t call yourself a maverick when all you’ve been the last eight years is a sidekick.’ Well, all of a sudden they’re trying to get off this horse. You know, and the horse you rode in on. Well, they rode in on Bush’s horse and they’re continuing to feed it.”
Upon his arrival in Charleston Thursday night, Biden greeted about a half dozen members of the United Mine Workers of America and, in his address today, the Delaware lawmaker continued an ongoing back-and-forth battle with the GOP ticket over clean coal.
Biden, of course, has been roundly criticized by his Republican rivals for remarks he made on clean coal last month on an Ohio ropeline.
“We’re not supporting clean coal,” Biden said in Maumee, Ohio. “Guess what? China is building two every week, two dirty coal plants. And it’s polluting the United States, it’s causing people to die.”
“China’s gonna burn 300 years of bad coal unless we figure out how to clean their coal up because it’s gonna ruin your lungs and there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “No coal plants here in America! Build ‘em, if they’re gonna build ‘em, over there and make ‘em clean because they’re killing ya.”
But as he has done since then, Biden emphasized to supporters that he backs clean coal.
“Let me get something straight because you watch these McCain ads you wonder, what planet are they coming from?” Biden said. “Ladies and gentlemen, John McCain does not believe that clean coal is part of our future. Don’t take my word for it, take his word for it. Here’s what he said, quote, ‘In a perfect world, we’d like to transition away from clean coal entirely.’ Now that does not sound like a guy who’s attacking us saying we’re not for clean coal, and now, and now to reinforce that, look at his plan, look at where he wants to invest. The oil companies are already getting a $30 billion tax cut over the next ten years and what does John McCain want to do and Sarah Palin? He wants to give them an extra $4 billion a year in additional tax cuts.”
“So John, if you’re listening, stop this malarkey about who’s for clean coal!” Biden bellowed. “Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake about it, the oil companies have placed their bets on Sarah Palin and John McCain, not on Barack Obama and Joe Biden. That’s why Appalachia can’t afford to go with McCain and must go with Obama!”
Biden was introduced this morning by West Virginia lawmakers Gov. Joe Manchin, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Sen. Robert Byrd.
The 90-year old Byrd, president pro tempore of the Senate, slipped up, cheering on Biden as “the next president," but got the crowd cheering with a fist-pumping testament to his colleague’s character.
“I’ve known him for nearly four decades,” Byrd said of Biden. “And in his heart, in his beliefs, and in his life story, he is a West Virginian!”
In return, Biden said that “to learn the ways of the Senate from Bob Byrd is like getting a trumpet lesson from the angel Gabriel.”
Rockefeller, on his part, said he believes that “Barack Obama is behind by only one percent in West Virginia.”