From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
CHARLESTON, WV – It is "crazy" of John McCain to think he can now attack George Bush's policies after championing them for eight years, Joe Biden said during the first general election appearance for Democrats in West Virginia.
"John McCain is now attacking the Bush budget and Bush fiscal policies, which he voted for I might add," Biden said at an outdoor rally this morning. "Folks, this is as crazy as, you know, Butch Cassidy attacking the Sundance Kid. I mean, that's a team."
Biden rattled off a greatest hits of quotes and statistics linking McCain to the unpopular president, including saying that the country "made great economic progress under the Bush administration.
"I know Halloween is coming, but John McCain as a candidate of change? Whoa!" Biden said. "He needs a costume for that. Folks. The American people aren't going to buy this. They're not going to buy this. They're too smart."
The rally, which attracted a few hundred on a chilly morning downtown, is the strongest evidence yet of the Democrats' confidence in expanding the electoral playing field to previously-strong McCain states, though it is likely to be the only appearance by a principal in the Mountain State. But Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who spoke along with Gov. Joe Manchin and senior Sen. Robert Byrd, said he had commissioned an internal poll.
"I think they always under-sample small states," Rockefeller said of other national pollsters. "So I did my own poll, with a guy I've been using since 1972. And that comports with several other polls which I will not mention which shows Barack Obama is behind by one percent in West Virginia!"
Speaking before a crowd that included members of the United Mine Workers, Biden addressed head-on questions about the Democrats' commitment to coal, which grew after a YouTube video captured Biden saying, "We're not supporting clean coal." The Delaware senator, citing his roots in coal country, tried to turn it back against McCain.
"Let me get something straight, because you watch these McCain ads, you wonder what planet are they coming from," Biden said. "John McCain does not believe that clean coal is part of our future. Don't take my word for it. Take his word for it. Here's what he said, quote, In a perfect world we'd like to transition away from coal entirely.' Now that does not sound like a guy who's attacking us saying we're not for clean coal."
He said the Republican ticket was more interested in rewarding oil companies than supporting clean coal technology. "So John, if you're listening. Stop this malarkey about who's for clean coal. Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake about it. The oil companies have placed their bets on Sarah Palin and John McCain, not on Barack Obama and Joe Biden. That's why Appalachia can't afford to go with McCain and must go with Obama."
Biden closed his remarks by addressing, as he has all week, the "scurrilous" robocalls by the McCain campaign. Today he pointed to the example of a West Virginia student, Chaylee Cole, who was fired from her job at a call center for refusing to read a McCain script.
"She said, 'Democrat or Republican I wouldn't have done this,'" Biden said. "Chaylee recognized that regardless of your personal politics, attacks like that, attacks like that are out of bounds. … Folks, I guarantee you. Barack Obama has a spine of steel. He can take these attacks for 12 more days. But our country cannot take four more years of this divisive politics. Four more years of Bush and McCain and Karl Rove. We cannot do it."
After leaving West Virginia, Biden will head to southern Virginia for rallies in Danville and Martinsville.