[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/28/art.biden28.ap.jpg caption="Biden went off script to attack McCain Tuesday."]MELBOURNE, Florida (CNN) – After sticking uncharacteristically close to his prepared remarks in recent days, Joe Biden veered off Tuesday night while speaking near Cape Canaveral to play up his ticket’s support for the space industry, and to hit John McCain over his health care plan - which the Democratic VP nominee called “the ultimate bridge to nowhere.”
The Obama-Biden campaign has argued that McCain would tax health care as income which would cause employers to drop coverage for 20 million working Americans. Instead, McCain would offer $5,000 in credit to find a new plan on the open market - far less, Democrats say, than the $12,000 they believe a plan costs on average.
On CNN Tuesday morning, McCain economic adviser Dough Holtz-Eakin countered, “Why would they leave? What they are getting from their employer is way better than what they could get with the credit.”
Biden seized on the remark Tuesday. “We had a refreshing bit of 'straight talk' from John McCain’s top economic adviser about John’s health care plan,” said Biden, after calling it “the ultimate bridge to nowhere.”
“It’s surprising, a bit of truth coming out of the campaign at the end here,” he added. “They want to take the one part of the health care system that’s not broke and break it. Folks, they’ve broken everything else over the last eight years.”
Holtz-Eakin fired back, saying his quote was deliberately taken out of context.
Despite rushing through his stump speeches in the last few days, the Delaware senator took time while speaking 25 miles down the Florida’s Atlantic coast from the famed space center to promote $2 billion of additional investment in the space program.
“The Bush administration has left our space program in a very difficult position, and John McCain as chairman of the commerce committee has not helped,” said Biden. “He oversaw the plans to retire the space shuttle before a replacement was ready.”
“We want to reinvigorate our national space program. And that includes creating an environment for a vibrant commercial space program,” he continued. “[John F. Kennedy] said, “Now is the time to take longer strides, for this nation to take a leading role in space achievement.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s as true today as it was then.”
The McCain campaign responded by calling the Democratic ticket’s stance ‘political expediency,’ pointing to an early-August position change by Obama, who had supported delaying NASA’s Constellation program to pay for early education but then decided to back the $2 billion congressional package.
Wednesday will be the last of Biden’s three-day bus tour through Florida. Each of his events is called an “Early Vote for Change Rally,” and in addition to asking Floridians Tuesday night to vote early, Biden noted that Florida’s governor – and McCain backer – Charlie Crist had extended the hours for early voting, declaring a state of emergency as voters turn out in record numbers.