JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — Democratic Sen. Joe Biden railed against Republican John McCain's economic proposals at a rally in the Louisville metropolitan area on Wednesday, even as McCain announced he would suspend his campaign for president to work on a Wall Street bailout.
Biden, playing the role of dutiful running mate, talked up the "judgment" of Democratic nominee Barack Obama, starting with his approach to crafting a response to the recent turmoil on Wall Street.
Obama called McCain Wednesday to ask that the two work together to ensure that any bailout Congress approves would have an independent oversight board and would help Americans whose homes have been foreclosed.
"Talk about reaching across the aisle," Biden told a crowd of 1,000 in a park in downtown Jeffersonville, Ind., just across the Ohio River from Kentucky. "How many other nominees would pick up the phone in a tightly contested race and call the opponent and say, 'This is too important for America. We should stand together and we should agree.'"
McCain, meanwhile, called for suspending Friday's scheduled debate between the two candidates so they could return to Washington. Obama rejected the offer.
Biden hammered on a populist theme throughout his 30-minute speech in Jeffersonville.
"The middle class has been under siege and we will end the siege," Biden said, after repeatedly linking McCain's economic policies to those of Bush. "Folks, we've seen this movie before. And folks, you all know the sequel is always worse than the original."
Democrats at the Jeffersonville event and a campaign stop in Cincinnati earlier yesterday said the recent financial turmoil has heightened voters' angst, which has led some fence-sitters to move to Obama.
"People are more anxious. People want answers. They're scared," said Betty Hewell, a Democratic activist in Cincinnati, who has been making calls to so-called swing voters.
Unlike Kentucky, where most polls show McCain leading Obama by between 15 and 20 points, both Ohio and Indiana are crucial swing states.
Ohio was considered a sought-after prize in both 2000 and 2004, with Bush narrowly winning both times. Indiana, though competitive in 1976, '92 and '96, hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
Biden gave Kentucky a brief shout-out in his remarks before crossing over the Ohio River to attend a $28,500-per couple fund-raising dinner at the Marriott downtown in Louisville.
Earlier Wednesday in Cincinnati, Biden blistered McCain on foreign policy issues, such as containing the rogue nation of Iran and dealing with an increasingly aggressive Russia.
He used the same Cincinnati venue President Bush chose to make his October 2002 case for war against Iraq to criticize McCain's judgment for supporting the diversion of military forces from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003.
"On this, John McCain is more than wrong, he is dangerously wrong," Biden said. "It's about judgment and on a question so basic, so fundamental, so critical to our national security, we cannot afford a commander in chief who is divorced from reality."
Biden said the true threat of terrorism lies in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan where "Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and the Taliban is still on the march."
He added that Obama has been right to call for swift withdrawal of troops from Iraq and halt the spending of $10 billion of U.S. dollars each month for the rebuilding of Iraq at a time when the U.S. economy is faltering.
He criticized McCain for dismissing Obama's calls for improving diplomatic talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
McCain, this summer, suggested tightening sanctions and putting more pressure on Iran, which has nuclear capabilities. Biden repeatedly argued that Obama has shown the cool-headed, correct and "wise" approach to foreign policy.
"The next president of the United States has an awesome, awesome responsibility," Biden said. "But it's also the biggest opportunity since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to change not only the direction of the country but change the direction of the world."