Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden called Republican John McCain an angry man making ugly attacks against the Democratic ticket to cover up his support for President Bush.
"You can't call yourself a maverick when all you've ever been is a sidekick," Biden said Wednesday of McCain. He credited Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey with first using the line.
Biden's attacks came during an appearance at the University of South Florida's Sun Dome, in the heart of the Tampa Bay area where the two tickets are in a tight race. Thousands waited in a line that wrapped along the Sun Dome basketball arena for a chance to hear Barack Obama's running mate.
Biden plans to continue this aggressive stance toward the Republican presidential candidate through Election Day, said his spokesman David Wade. Wade said Biden would be Obama's "defender in chief."
Biden argued that he and Obama have won all three debates so far. He said Tuesday night's town hall debate between the two at the top of the ticket, where voters asked most of the questions, showed "what a majority of American people are looking for — a steady hand, leadership, an optimist; not an angry man, lurching from one position to another."
Biden also ridiculed McCain running mate Sarah Palin for her attacks on Obama. "Last week I had a debate, I think it was a debate, with Gov. Palin," Biden said. Palin and Biden both used the debate more for attacks on the opposing standard-bearer rather than direct answers to the questions.
The McCain campaign responded by saying that Obama and Biden lack a record of change or reform and have no credibility to call for either.
"During their combined 39 years in the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama nor his running mate have ever challenged their own party. Their run-with-the-herd mentality, radical associations and partisan proposals have made them the most liberal ticket in political history," said Ben Porritt, a McCain campaign spokesman.
Earlier, during an appearance on CBS' "The Early Show," Biden said Palin's criticism of Obama as friends with terrorists is "over the top."
Palin has been telling supporters that Obama is close to a 1960s-era radical William Ayers, a founder of the violent Weather Underground. After first claiming that Obama had been "palling around with terrorists," she changed the thrust of the attack to say that Obama's ties to Ayers showed bad judgment.
Obama and Ayers, now a college professor, live in the same Chicago neighborhood and have served together on two nonprofit organization boards. The Illinois senator, who was a young child when the Weathermen were planting bombs in protest of the Vietnam War, has denounced Ayers' radical views and actions. His campaign has said that Obama didn't know of Ayers' past when they first met.
In Florida on Monday, Palin's remarks about Obama and Ayers elicited waves of booing from supporters. One person at a rally shouted "Kill him!" according to a Washington Post report. (It was unclear if the shouter referred to Ayers or Obama.) A sheriff who introduced Palin at a rally referred to the Democratic candidate as "Barack Hussein Obama."
"You know, the idea here that somehow these guys are once again injecting fear and loathing into this campaign is ... I think it's mildly dangerous. I mean, here you have out there these kinds of, you know, incitements out there — guy introducing Barack using his middle name as if it's some epitaph or something," Biden said, apparently confusing the words "epitaph" and "epithet."
"It's just malarkey, flat malarkey," Biden said of the Ayers criticism. "The guy Barack Obama is going to turn and ask opinion to is me, not that guy."
Biden said the Republicans have chosen "to appeal to fear with a veiled question, `Who is the real Barack Obama?'"
McCain has been asking that question on the campaign trail, and Biden said that reminds him of the dirty tricks played in the 2000 Republican primary campaign, when false rumors were circulated that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black baby and was mentally unstable.
"The McCain campaign went out and hired the very political manipulators in the Republican primary who in 2000 led those vicious attacks against John's daughter and John's lovely wife," Biden said. "They hired those people to come on board. And now these same people, they're attacking Barack Obama in the ugliest of ways."
Biden returned to the campaign trail on Wednesday after spending the last few days mourning the death of his mother-in-law.