From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
CASTLEWOOD, VA – Joe Biden took on an even folksier tone than usual as he campaigned in rural southwest Virginia this afternoon. Though his focus was again on economic issues, he deviated from script to talk about an issue not often discussed by the Democrats: guns.
The Delaware senator predicted that Republicans would seek to sway voters by threatening that Obama would take away guns. Biden, claiming to be a gun-owner himself who likes "that little over and under," called that notion bogus.
"Barack Obama ain't taking my shotguns, so don't buy that malarkey," he said. "If he tries to fool with my Beretta, he's got a problem."
The riff came as he criticized McCain again for being out of touch on the economy, quoting another Republican as he made the case for putting a new philosophy in the White House.
"Take a look at the facts. Take a look at what's happened the last eight years," he said. "Tell me as Ronald Reagan said famously more than two decades ago: are you better off today than you were eight years ago?"
As Obama did earlier today, Biden zeroed in on a quote from McCain in a trade publication saying he'd open up the health insurance market "to more vigorous nationwide competition as we have done over the last decade in banking," to provide for "more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst-excesses of state-based regulation."
"Translated: get rid of the regulations, get rid of the protection, and hang on to your health insurance," Biden said. "Ladies and gentlemen, this guy's not learned anything. I'm not joking."
Biden spoke to a few hundred friendly bodies at the United Mine Workers Fish Fry, an annual tradition that started decades ago when the union wanted to show solidarity with striking workers. Deep in coal country, Biden said he and Obama would invest money in clean coal technology, and pay for it by taking away tax breaks for oil companies.
"John McCain and Sarah Palin, I understand why they're oil people," he said.
And, he continued, he understands the need to drill for more oil, though he expected oil companies to use existing areas first before expanding. "Why haven't they done that when we're told there's 50 billion barrels of oil out there? You think maybe they kind of like the price the way it is?"
"Imagine … what Barack and I can do, taking that four billion dollars and investing it in coal gasification," he said. "That's within our capacity to do it. If you give me four billion dollars, I promise you, I promise you, we will find the answer."