(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that if not for the economic collapse surrounding the 2008 presidential race, Sen. John McCain might have beat President Barack Obama.
"The truth of the matter is, Barack knows it, I know, had the economy not collapsed around your ears, John, in the middle of literally, as things were moving, I think you probably would have won," Biden said during the annual Sedona forum at the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University.
"It would have been incredibly, incredibly, incredibly close. You inherited a really difficult time," Biden said to McCain, R-Arizona.
Before turning to the politics of presidential elections, the two former adversaries discussed gun control in the wake of the Newtown shootings, the bombing at the Boston Marathon and expanding human rights. There was no mention of Syria despite recent evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in the country on a small scale.
Responding to a question on whether background checks are necessary, Biden said public sentiment has changed on the issue of gun control despite the Senate's defeat last week of a bipartisan compromise on gun-buyer background checks. The final vote was 54 in favor to 46 opposed with four Republicans joining most Democrats in supporting the compromise. McCain voted for the background check measure, unlike most Republicans.
"For the first time ever, you have people who are for gun safety, for increasing background checks," Biden said. "Two out of three of them say it will be a major determining factor in how I vote. That's the political dynamic that has changed. So I think we're going to get this anyway. I think this will pass before the year is out, within this Congress."
McCain and Biden also touched on the bombing in Boston earlier this month and the investigation into the motives of the two suspects.
"The most difficult one to deal with is the one that is self-radicalized or marginally assisted who is not directed specific by anybody because all of the intelligence apparatus and all of the means by which we have to infiltrate or pick up the kind of signals we are able to pick up with our significant technological capability is rendered almost useless," Biden said, qualifying his remarks that more information is required in the ongoing investigation.
Earlier this week at a memorial service for one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing Biden said the brothers accused of the attack are "twisted, perverted, cowardly knock-off jihadis" who failed to instill fear in the American people.
The Sedona Forum bills itself as a "high-level conclave" of leaders from the private and public sectors who discuss national security, foreign policy, human rights and economic policies.
Other participants in the forum this year included GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, Wal-mart President and CEO Bill Simon, former NBA star and humanitarian Dikembe Mutombo and former Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril.
Senators who were slated to attend include Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire; Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; and retired Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
–CNN's Ashley Killough, Paul Steinhauser and Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.