Everyone knows Vice President Joe Biden is particularly prone to clumsy verbal stumbles. But is his recent suggestion, to an audience made up of many African-Americans, that Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney's policies would put middle-class Americans "back in chains" worse than just an innocent gaffe?
Republicans obviously think so, and Sarah Palin is leading the charge. She says President Barack Obama should dump the veep in favor of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention.
'There weren't enough groans and boos when he said such a disgusting comment, really, especially to a demographic there that includes 48 per cent of the community being black Americans," Palin told a Fox News interviewer. "If that's not the nail of the coffin. Really the strategists there in the Obama campaign have got to look at a diplomatic way of replacing Joe Biden on the ticket with Hillary."
But Biden's remark set off a flurry of accusations and counter-accusations between the two presidential campaigns and their surrogates this week. Speaking in Danville, Va., on Tuesday, Biden told an audience: "Romney wants to -- he said in the first 100 days he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They're going to put y'all back in chains."
Romney shot back later by calling Biden's remarks "wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency ... This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like."
Biden later said he used the wrong word. He said he meant to use the word "unshackle" to describe what Romney would do to Wall Street, a term both parties have been using during the 2012 campaign.
Whether Biden's initial remarks were an intentional attempt to use racial imagery to score political points or an especially poor choice of wording, it is clear that the race has reached a new, more vitriolic low. And there's still a long way to go until Nov. 6.