Vice President Joe Biden is an outlier in American politics: He speaks his mind, all of it. Sometimes that’s a good thing. But other times — like this past week — it can be a very bad thing.

Biden’s swing through Virginia was supposed to showcase his ability to reach rural, working-class voters. Instead, it turned into a mistake-riddled trip that wound up overtaking the national campaign story — and not in a good way for President Barack Obama.

Biden’s slip-ups ranged from the merely comical (while in Virginia, he said the campaign was poised to win North Carolina) to the genuinely problematic. “They’re going to put y’all back in chains,” he said, describing banks’ presumed role in a Mitt Romney administration, to a crowd that included many African Americans.

Hours after Biden made the comment, Romney condemned the Democratic ticket’s tactics, urging Obama to “take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago.”

Sensing a burgeoning political controversy, Biden sought to clarify that he meant to talk about shackles, not chains.

Of course, given the momentum of the media cycle — Twitter! — it was already way too late to put Biden back in the bottle.

The story du jour became whether the vice president’s flubs meant that he might be replaced on the ticket by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a ridiculous proposition that, nonetheless, the White House had to formally knock back.

Vice President Biden, for letting “bad Joe” out, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Chris Cillizza is a political reporter at The Washington Post.

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