(LIMA, OHIO) - With four days until Election Day, Joe Biden talked to reporters today about the final days of campaigning for Barack Obama in hotly contested states, the war in Iraq, his relationship with the press, and his hopes for a post-election relationship with John McCain.
After ordering a burger and fries with his wife Jill and granddaughter Naomi at Kewpee Restaurant on Halloween night in Lima, he took 12 minutes of questions from an army of roving reporters while a female employee in a vampire costume looked on.
Biden seemed relaxed and enthusiastic about Obama's chances of claiming the presidency in a few days, but he held caution in thinking there was any guarantees.
"You know, we've been down this road before," said Biden. "I felt awful good about this time [in the election season], you know, in the Kerry campaign and I felt good in the Gore campaign. So…that old joke, you know, 'it ain't over till it's over. I mean we feel good, we look good, but it's not over yet."
Regarding which battleground states he thought would be close between McCain and Obama, Biden said Florida, North Carolina and Missouri would be tough fights for the candidates, but that he felt good about winning Virginia as well as the state of his childhood hometown of Scranton.
"I feel very good about Pennsylvania. Maybe because I know the state so well. Um, I'm not overconfident about it but I feel, you know, real good there," he said contently.
Questioned about the importance of the Iraq war in this election, which has been overshadowed by domestic concerns surrounding the economy, Biden said, "I think it is an underlying, unspoken issue."
"People are worried about putting food on their tables, keeping their jobs, keeping their homes. I mean that is the overarching issue in this campaign. But I do think, if you notice, whenever I talk about Iraq, I never to fail to mention it, it is the most guttural response that you get. People want this war over."
Biden has time and time again, in nearly all if not every speech, vowed that an Obama administration will end the war in Iraq, and often pounds the heel of his fist on the podium and shouting it to cheers.
"I think that once again, I mean this sincerely. Barack has demonstrated a judgment that is a hell of a lot superior…I mean John talks about being ready to lead. Barack's the one ready to lead."
Asked what sense he had of how well the surge of troops was working in Iraq now, Biden showed interest in discussing but tried to abbreviate a long statement on the complicated angles of foreign policy in the region.
"To give you the thorough answer is going to take longer than this, but here's the deal. Absent a political solution, and you see what's happening in Kirkuk, you see what's happening in Kurdistan, you see the questions raised about whether or not the 4 million displaced persons are going to be able to get back," he explained.
"We've got a long way to go. A long way to go. And the surge, the one place John and I disagreed, the surge was always a tactic, it was never a strategy. And so we've got other steps to go here. And one of the things I think that Bush is on the right track about now, Bush is finally figuring out what everybody – sounds, wrong way to say it. Bush has concluded, the administration's concluded, there needs to be a transfer here."
On stories that he has been muzzled by the Obama campaign in recent weeks, Biden acted surprised.
"Well I've had over 200 interviews," said Biden. "If I'm muzzled, I don't know, uh, I've done 200 interviews, I've, um, been doing, you know, half a dozen to a dozen satellite feeds everyday. Um, I'm doing shows, I mean, so, no one said anything to me about it."
It should be noted, however, was the first time he had made himself available to his national press corps in over almost two months.
While Biden said he did not want to be presumptuous about becoming the vice president elect by the next week, he indicated the legislative (and possibly the executive) branches of government would be dominated by his party.
"Now will it be overwhelmingly Democrat? Yeah! But you can't get any of this done. You can't get a major energy policy unless you get buy in from the Republicans. You can't get a major economic rescue policy."
On whether or not the balance will be weighed too heavily on one party, Biden said he believed Democratic control of the government would be good for the country.
"Look, this is not he Democratic Party of 1970 and the early '80s. This is not, you know, nor is it the Republican Party of back then. This is the Bush Republican Party that's continuing, and we have a very different notion. Barack and I in terms of how we view this, this election. We really believe, and not a joke. You've covered me enough. I really do reach out. I mean, I really have a relationship. We can't get this done with just Democrats, even if we control, even if we're lucky enough to get to 60 senators. We're not going to be able to control and get these tough things done without reaching out."
Asked if his relationship with McCain will still be intact after the election. Biden said "I don't know, I hope it's intact."
"John and I haven't had a chance to speak. We have not had a chance to speak. And, uh, um, I hope they're intact because I still admire him, I still like him. As I said to you before, if he picked up the phone and said Joe I'm in trouble, get in the plane and come to San -- I'd get in the plane and I'd go. And I hope and believe he'd still do the same for me. We have strong, strong fundamental disagreements on policy, and we have our whole political life together. I mean, we've been arguing about everything from Amtrak to Afghanistan for, you know, as long as we've been together."
"Um, but I just think that, uh, I think – I believe when this is over, win or lose, John and I are likely to be around you, in one form or another, in one job or another, 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," said Biden, referring to uniting the politics of red and blue states.
"You can't make these big decisions. I mean, you need -- you need cooperation, no matter how."