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Biden: But for 2008 economic collapse, McCain would "probably" have won

Many Republicans have long groused that former GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would have defeated then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 if the American economy hadn't collapsed less than two months before Election Day.

It turns out Vice President Joe Biden agrees with them.

"The truth of the matter is, Barack knows it, I know, had the economy not collapsed around your ears, John ... I think you probably would have won." Biden said to McCain at the Republican's annual leadership forum in Sedona, Ariz., according to The Associated Press.

"But it would have been incredibly, incredibly, incredibly close," Biden added. "You inherited a really difficult time."

When Wall Street was wracked in September 2008 by the collapse of investment giant Lehman Brothers and turmoil in other big banks, many analysts expected the political fallout to damage Republican candidates up- and down-ballot, especially McCain, who never quite regained his electoral footing after the nightmarish financial meltdown.

The forum, which featured McCain lobbing questions at the vice president on a number of topics, also touched on the federal response to the bombings in Boston and the recent failure of gun control in the Senate.

Biden warned that, despite the continued threat posed by terrorism, America must not relinquish the values embodied in the Constitution.

"The moment we change any of these things, that's when they win," he said. "Because they don't see how you can have a society that is not ordered and regimented and wedded to an orthodoxy that is theirs. That's the point that bothers them most about us."

On the administration's ongoing push to strengthen gun safety laws, Biden predicted that, despite the defeat earlier this month of a proposal that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers, the popular support behind the measure would eventually push it over the finish line.

"I think this will pass before the year is out, within this Congress," he said. "For the first time ever, you have people who are for gun safety, for increasing background checks. Two out of three of them say it will be a major factor in determining how I vote. That's the political dynamic that has changed."

McCain, unlike a large majority of his GOP compatriots, supported the background check proposal, which was authored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. On the Senate floor the day the proposal was defeated, the Arizona Republican commended the proposal's bipartisan sponsors: "You may not win today, I say to my two colleagues, but you did the right thing."

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