[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/24/art.bidencrisis.ap.jpg caption="Biden invited questions from traveling reporters for the first time in weeks."]LIMA, Ohio (CNN) – Joe Biden invited questions from his traveling press corps for the first time in almost eight weeks on Friday night, rejecting reports that the campaign has muzzled his famous talkative behavior and saying he hopes that he and John McCain will still be friends after this contentious election is over.
“I don’t know, I hope [the friendship] is intact, John and I have not had a chance to speak,” Biden said, standing in a burger joint with his wife and one of his granddaughters. “I hope [it’s] intact because I still admire him, I still like him.”
“We have strong, strong, fundamental disagreements on policy, and we have our whole political life together. I mean, we've been arguing about everything from Amtrak to Afghanistan for, you know, as long as we've been together,” he continued. “I believe when this is over, win or lose, John and I are likely to be around in one form or another, in one job or another, and I hope, my hope is we can work together.”
Biden roundly criticizes his friend of over three decades for the “scurrilous” attacks Republicans have launched on Barack Obama at the end of this election season. Friday night he accused the Republican nominee of being wrong on “every single foreign policy judgment,” but said he was pleased to see that McCain’s latest television ad is a positive one.
“I hope John ends this campaign with his strength,” said Biden. “Win or lose, it's not a good thing to end in sort of this bitter tone. No matter what happens.”
Until Friday night, reports of a ‘muzzling’ from the Delaware senator’s campaign were widespread, as he avoided speaking to the handful of reporters that travel with him for almost two months, ignored questions reporters asked during photo-ops at local stops, strayed very little from the scripts of his campaign speeches and kept them brief.
“Well, I’ve had over 200 interviews,” Biden countered, referring to appearances he’s made with mostly local media since joining the ticket. “I’ve been doing half a dozen to a dozen satellite feeds everyday. I’m doing shows, I mean, so, no one said anything to me about it.”
Biden said he feels good about the state of the race in its final days, quickly adding that he’s felt the same way in the last two elections that Democrats lost. A reporter noted that he’s campaigning in several of Ohio’s Republican strongholds, to which Biden responded that the campaign believes they can compete everywhere and have to because the election “is going to be a lot closer than everybody thinks.”
Pressed on which battleground states he believes will be close, he rattled off Florida, North Carolina, Missouri and Ohio but noted “I feel very good about Pennsylvania” and “Virginia feels really good.” In CNN’s latest poll of polls, Obama leads McCain by 11 percent in Pennsylvania and seven in Virginia.