ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports: With the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., promising an aggressive new strategy after polling gains by the rival Republican campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., delivered a hard-hitting speech Monday denouncing McCain as nothing more than "Bush 44."
"If you're ready for four more years of George Bush, then John McCain is your guy," Biden said in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. "You know, just as George Herbert Walker Bush was nicknamed 'Bush 41' and his son was nicknamed 'Bush 43,' John McCain could easily become known as 'Bush 44.'"
With his rhetoric ratcheted up in comparison to his first few weeks on the campaign trail, Biden urged voters not to be fooled by McCain's pledges to bring reform to Washington, reminding the crowd of Bush's campaign promises when he won the White House in 2000.
"Eight years later we have another Republican nominee who's telling us the exact same thing," Biden said. "He's saying this time will be different, he says it really will. This time he's going to put country before party, to change the tone, reach across the aisle. He's going to change the Republican Party, he's going to change the way Washington works. Folks, we've seen this movie before. And we know, the sequel is always worse than the original."
Biden, who the campaign believes has "unique standing" to argue against McCain due to the two senators' long-term friendship dating back over 30 years, not only hit out at McCain's record as a lawmaker but also his current "Rovian" campaign tactics.
"The campaign a person runs tells ya everything about the way they’ll govern," he said. "The McCain-Palin campaign decided to bet the house, decided to bet the house on the politics perfected by Karl Rove. Those tactics may be good at squeaking by in an election, but they are very bad if you want to lead one nation, indivisible."
Biden recalled that it was these same tactics that proved fatal to McCain's bid for the GOP nomination in 2000.
"Now some of the very same people and the tactics that were used against John and deplored by him, his campaign is now employing against Barack Obama," said Biden, who frequently notes on the campaign trail that he offered to help his "good friend John" during the 2000 fall-out. "The same campaign, the same campaign that once called for a town hall a week is now launching a low blow a day in this campaign and I’m tired of it, [but] folks, Barack and I can take it."
"But what really bothers me," he continued, "is that for every punch that’s thrown at us it’s an attempt to distract you, to distract the American people, from the very important issues that face this country."
Biden's speech focused primarily on McCain's domestic record, with no fewer than two mentions of McCain's running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"And now, Governor Palin, his running mate, his running mate, she made a statement: “All senators do is vote. That’s all they do." Well, just imagine what America would look like if John’s votes over the past 20 years had become the law of the land," Biden said. "All I can say is, to Sarah Palin, thank goodness John McCain’s votes didn’t count in the majority on all of those issues."
Biden also accused McCain of trying to "cloak himself in reform but then misrepresent his running mate's record."
In response, the McCain campaign called Biden's comments "ridiculous" and "not credible."
“Barack Obama’s running mate today made more ridiculous comments that are not credible and stand in complete contradiction to their record," said McCain/Palin spokesman Ben Porritt in a statement. "It’s salesmanship not leadership for Barack Obama and his running mate to tell families in Michigan that they have plans to aid the middle class when they recently both voted in favor of higher taxes for Americans making as little as $42,000. The Obama-Biden ticket’s economic plan raises taxes, kills jobs, increases spending to the tune of $860 billion, and they both persist in opposing sensible energy policy that will relieve our dependence on foreign energy.”
The Delaware lawmaker made Monday's major domestic policy address in front of 1,500 supporters at South Lake High School, but not even something as seemingly minor as a crowd count can be given without it turning into a dig against the opposing party. Quipped Biden spokesman David Wade, "As the McCain campaign might call it, 1.5 million attending speech," in light of accusations that the GOP campaign has been inflating their crowd numbers in recent weeks.
Wade noted that Monday's speech does not represent a new "attack dog" role for Biden, but rather "the truth squad."
The St. Clair Shores address is the first of two major "framing" speeches Biden will give, the second to be focused on foreign policy, set to be delivered Monday September 22 in Baltimore.