ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports: Earlier this week, Republicans claimed that Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., had been “muzzled” by the Democratic campaign, noting that he had not held a full-fledged press availability with traveling reporters since a Sept. 7 flight to Montana. But Friday night, in a deserted Ohio eatery on Halloween, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee once again fielded questions from his press corps, refuting any accusations that he had been “muzzled.”
“If I’m muzzled, I don’t know, I’ve done 200 interviews, I’ve been doing, you know, half a dozen to a dozen satellite feeds everyday, I’m doing shows,” Biden said, touting the local interviews he conducts daily. “I mean, so no one said anything to me about it."
Perhaps it was the near-empty diner that left Biden with no alternative than answering questions from the media. When Biden walked into Kewpee, a small burger joint in Lima, Ohio, just after concluding his rally in this northwestern Buckeye State town, the senator found more reporters than diners.
“Everybody’s trick-or-treating,” he noted on this Halloween night.
Standing beside a large white sign that read, “No Loitering, Begging, Solicitation at any time,” Biden quickly gladhanded with the few diners before addressing the swarm of reporters. He cautioned that the upcoming election will be “closer than everybody thinks it is,” expressed hope that his friendship with rival Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was still “intact,” and said that no matter what happens on Tuesday, “this is a mindset-changing election.”
While the Biden regularly rips the McCain campaign’s “scurrilous attacks” on Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., tonight he hoped that his friendship with the Republican nominee was still strong.
“I don’t know, I hope it’s intact,” Biden said of the lawmakers’ relationship. “John and I haven’t had a chance to speak.”
Noting that McCain’s latest ad was “positive,” Biden said he hopes, “John ends this campaign with his strength.”
“One of the things I’ve admired about John, and I’ve considered him, why I’ve considered him a friend, he does, he never gives up,” Biden said. “But so, and I just hope when it’s over, win or lose, you walk up and you shake hands and say, ‘John, we’ve got a lot of work to do.’”
"When this is over, win or lose, John and I are likely to be around, in one form or another, in one job or another," Biden predicted. "And I hope, uh, my hope is we can work together. Because folks, it sounds corny, you cannot do this stuff unless you start to get a little purple here. You can’t make these big decisions. I mean, you need, you need cooperation, no matter how."
But before any post-election pleasantries are exchanged, Obama and Biden still have to defeat McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Nov. 4. That’s why, Biden said, the Democratic team is campaigning in such a wide array of states.
"We’re going everywhere: Montana, Arizona,” he said, to name a few. “I mean, we’re everywhere we can be because … this election is going to be a lot closer than everybody thinks it is."
"We feel good, we look good, but it’s not over yet,” he cautioned, noting that he is “a politician who has run scared every single election.”
“The fact of the matter is that I have, I have done relatively well in my own elections,” Biden said. “But I have never, never, before the polls close, said, ‘Man, this is in the bag.’”
The Delaware lawmaker expressed confidence in Democrats’ chances in Pennsylvania and Virginia, but concern about their options in Florida, North Carolina, Missouri and Ohio.
“I think it’s going to be close in Florida, it’s going to be close here, it’s going to be close in Missouri. I think it’s going to close. … I don’t think it will be that close in Pennsylvania. I feel very good about Pennsylvania, maybe because I know the state so well,” said the Scranton-born Biden. “I’m not overconfident about it, but I feel, you know, real good there. I think it’s going to be close in North Carolina. You know, Virginia feels really good but, you know, it ain’t till it happens.”
But if the Democrats do claim the Oval Office and also reach the 60-seat threshold in the Senate?
"It would be good for the country," Biden said.
Whoever emerges victorious Tuesday night, Biden called this a “mindset-changing election,” noting the nation’s struggling economy and later, its damaged reputation due to foreign policy decisions such as the war in Iraq.
“We’re in a deep hole, man,” he said. “And the Republicans get it. The Republicans, they’re going to be very chastened by this election, win or lose. I doubt whether you’re going to see a lot of Republicans coming back talking about compassionate conservatism. I doubt whether you’re going to find many Republicans in the United States House and Senate talking about how if you just let this stuff trickle down, and all you got to do is more of the same.”
“I mean, they don’t use that phraseology, but I really think this is a mindset-changing election,” he added. “And so I think there is going to be a center that can generate some genuine, bipartisan consensus.”
Eventually, a few kids summoned up the courage to approach Biden as he addressed the press, bringing an end to the impromptu question-and-answer session. But maybe reporters will get another chance to pepper the senator Saturday, when Biden spends a second-straight day busing around the battleground Buckeye State. Ohio diner stops appear to be a favorite place for Biden to open up. The last time the veep nominee answered any questions at all from his traveling press corps was Oct. 14 across the state at an eatery in Lisbon.