The man’s clearly a genius.

In an out-of-nowhere attempt to re-assure a southwestern Virginia labor crowd about gun owners’ rights, Biden — who regularly scores “F” ratings from the National Rifle Association — warned Obama that if “he tries to fool with my Beretta, he’s got a problem.”

“I guarantee you Barack Obama ain’t taking my shotguns, so don’t buy that malarkey,” Biden said Saturday at the United Mine Workers of America’s annual fish fry in Castlewood, Virginia. “Don’t buy that malarkey. They’re going to start peddling that to you.”

Biden told the crowd that he himself is a gun owner. “I got two,” Biden said, “if he tries to fool with my Beretta, he’s got a problem. I like that little over and under, you know? I’m not bad with it. So give me a break. Give me a break.

Would The One dare to fool with his Beretta? Of course not — he doesn’t have the votes. Golly, I wonder if this explains why Team Barry was so quick to acquiesce to McCain’s demand for a highly structured VP debate format with short Q&A periods so that the candidates can’t ramble on.

I do believe it was:

A commission member said that the new agreement on the vice-presidential debate was reached late morning Saturday. It calls for shorter blocks of candidate statements and open discussion than at the presidential debates.

McCain advisers said they were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin’s debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate, or about his chances of tripping her up. Instead, they say, they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain’s positions, rather than spending time talking about her own experience or playing defense…

Indeed, both the McCain and Obama campaigns have similar concerns about the vice-presidential matchup in St. Louis: that Ms. Palin, of Alaska, as a new player in national politics, or Mr. Biden, of Delaware, as a loquacious and gaffe-prone speaker, could commit a momentum-changing misstep in their debate.

Considering that Biden’s famously popped off on this subject at a debate before plus the fact that the singular image of the ‘Cuda in the public imagination is of her brandishing an automatic weapon, I’d say odds are fair that if war breaks out at the debate, this’ll be the issue that sets it off. Exit question: The Times piece notes that Friday’s McCain/Obama debate was originally supposed to deal with the economy but was switched to foreign policy — at Obama’s urging. Evidently he wants to show off his facility with international issues to reassure people who are worried about his inexperience. Is that a good move or a bad one? Initially I thought it was nutty since he leads McCain consistently on the economy and should want to take advantage now, but there’s a certain wisdom in pushing discussion of an issue on which he’s stronger back so that it’s closer to the election.


Sarah Palin Rifle TrainingClick here for funny video clips