Republican John McCain told voters in Pennsylvania Tuesday he was personally tested by the same kind of crisis that Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph Biden warned Barack Obama will almost certainly face if elected president.
McCain recalled being ready to launch a bombing run during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which Biden said over the weekend tested a new President John F. Kennedy and was the template for the kind of "generated crisis" the 47-year-old Obama would face within six months of taking office.
"I was on board the USS Enterprise," McCain, a former naval aviator, said in the capital city of Harrisburg. "I sat in the cockpit, on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, off of Cuba. I had a target. My friends, you know how close we came to a nuclear war."
As the crowd of several thousand began to swell with cheers and applause, he added with dramatic effect: "America will not have a president who needs to be tested. I've been tested, my friends."
Biden told two fundraising audiences in Seattle over the weekend that he expected world figures to test Obama early if he wins the election in two weeks.
"He's gonna need you — not financially to help him — we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him," Biden said.
Biden predicted Obama would fare well because he's "got steel in his spine." In citing the Cuban Missile Crisis, though, he evoked a historic event in which McCain played a part.
"The Enterprise, sailing at full speed under nuclear power, was the first U.S. carrier to reach waters off Cuba," McCain wrote in his memoir, "Faith of My Fathers." ''For about five days, the pilots on the Enterprise believed we were going into action. We had never been in combat before, and despite the global confrontation a strike on Cuba portended, we were prepared and anxious to fly our first mission."
He added: "Pilots and crewmen alike adopted a cool-headed, business-as-usual attitude toward the mission. Inwardly, of course, we were excited as hell, but we kept our composure and aped the standard image of a laconic, reserved, and fearless American at war."
McCain was spending Tuesday in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, worth 21 Electoral College votes, before heading Wednesday into New Hampshire, a formerly reliable GOP state which Obama has made competitive this year. Though it has only four of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, New Hampshire could swing the election under some voting models which predict a very close Electoral College split.
The 72-year-old McCain regularly questions whether Obama — a first-term senator — has the experience to be president. He also questions whether the Illinois Democrat has the character to stand up to his own party and to stick with his core philosophical views.
In a region experiencing World Series fever, McCain underscored his argument by noting Obama had expressed support for both teams playing in the upcoming baseball championship.
Standing just miles north of Philadelphia, whose Phillies will represent the National League starting Wednesday against the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, McCain noted Obama has identified himself with both teams while campaigning in their two politically important home states.
Obama said over the weekend in Philadelphia that while he was a Chicago fan, "Since the White Sox are out of it, I'll root for the Phillies now." On Monday in Tampa, Obama was introduced by a Rays pitcher and said, "I've said from the beginning that I am a unity candidate, bringing people together. So when you see a White Sox Fan showing love to the Rays — and the Rays showing some love back — you know we are on to something right here."
McCain told employees at TCI Millwork Inc. in Bensalem: "Now, I'm not dumb enough to get mixed up in a World Series between swing states. But I think I may have detected a little pattern with Sen. Obama. It's pretty simple really. When he's campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies, and when he's campaigning in Tampa Bay, he 'shows love' to the Rays."
As boos echoed through a cavernous warehouse, he added:"It's kind of like the way he campaigns on tax cuts, but then votes for tax increases after he's elected. Or the way he says he backs the middle class and then goes and attacks Joe the Plumber after Sen. Obama's asked a tough question. What's that all about?"
In fact, Obama did not attack plumber Joe Wurzelbacher; rather he criticized McCain for suggesting the Ohio plumber who wants to purchase the plumbing business where he works is in the same economic shape as most working class voters.