Starting Gate: Testing Time

Everyone thought Sarah Palin would have been the vice presidential candidate to say something that knocked their campaign off-stride but it's Joe Biden who's giving the political world something juicy to chew on.

Discouraged over depressing poll numbers, unsettling economic news and even dissension within party ranks, Republicans were delighted to have Biden's recent remarks about Barack Obama fall into their laps.

"We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year old senator president of the United States of America," Biden told Democratic fundraisers in Washington state on Sunday according to reports. "Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. … As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it's gonna happen. I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate. And he's gonna need help."

John McCain and Republicans gleefully jumped on the remark, contending that it showed even Obama's own running mate views him as untested and inexperienced. "We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars," McCain said in Missouri yesterday.

Democrats were quick to do damage control, contending that all presidents are tested and making sure to point out that Biden finished his remarks by saying that anyone who tests Obama will discover that he has "steel in his spine." But it's not a comfortable moment for Biden to be raising the issue in any case.

While Obama has gotten high marks for his debate performances and in most surveys is now seen as having cleared the bar of being able to handle a crisis, McCain retains an edge when it comes to the candidate seen as more prepared to be president and on the Commander-in-Chief question. Biden's remarks play right into the hands of Republicans who've been looking for a way to revive the issue ever since the economic crisis came to dominate the campaign.

If the McCain campaign can continue to find ways to ratchet this theme up in the minds of voters, it could become a potent one for them. But time is growing short and the economy remains the number one issue by far, something that's helped Obama and hurt McCain throughout this fall. They'll likely need at least one or two more things to happen in order to really elevate it but if they do, we might look back on Joe Biden's comments as the start of it all.

Around The Horn

  • Obama is taking a couple of days off from the campaign trail at the end of the week to travel to Hawaii and visit his ill grandmother.
  • More details from his fundraising in September reveals that Obama entered the month of October with more than $133 million in the bank.
  • McCain's latest campaign slogan has become, "I'm not Bush," reports the Washington Post.
  • Election officials in Florida are scrambling to handle a flood of early voting, which began yesterday.