Evoking 1968, Joe Biden asks New Hampshire voters: What if Barack Obama had been assassinated in 2008?

Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON -- Joe Biden, the former vice president and current front-runner in the sprawling Democratic primary field of more than 20 candidates, asked a curious question of New Hampshire voters at Dartmouth College on Friday: What if Barack Obama had been assassinated?

During a discussion of mental health and school shootings at a health care town hall in Hanover, the former VP turned to his collegiate days, and spoke of the assassinations of his “political heroes,” Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, who were assassinated within weeks of each other.

Related Video: Joe Biden Defends Obamacare, Attacks Trump

Biden said, "My senior semester, they were both shot and killed. Imagine what would have happened if, God forbid, if Barack Obama had been assassinated after becoming the de facto nominee. What would've happened in America?"

The comments were reported on by multiple media outlets, including the New York TimesNBC, the Associated Press and the Washington Post.

The startling question came a day after Biden posted on Twitter posted about when Obama asked him to become his running mate in 2008. The 76-year-old served as Obama’s vice president for the entirety of Obama's time in the Oval Office from 2009-2017.

Only three days earlier at an event in Iowa, Biden initially misspoke, saying that Kennedy and King had been shot “in the late 1970’s” instead of 1968.

Of Biden's New Hampshire comments Friday, the New York Times reportshe was trying to make a point about becoming politically aware and motivated in the turbulent times of the 1960s and 1970s, discussing the deadly Kent State shootings during a Vietnam War protest in 1970. He successfully ran for Senate in 1972 when he was 29 years old.

Biden also said Friday he was accused of being gay decades ago because he supported women's rights, referring to the Equal Rights Amendment.

"An entire generation was energized. We finally finished the Voting Rights Act. We finally got the Civil Rights Act back on the road. We finally were in a position where we started to begin the women’s movement, and began to treat women — I remember because I was such a big supporter of the E.R.A. in 1972, quote — to show you how things have changed, thank God — 'Well, you know why Biden is for the E.R.A., he’s probably gay.' Not a joke," Biden recalled.

During a campaign event in Nashua, N.H., on Monday, Dr. Jill Biden, Biden's wife and the former second lady, said that Democrats should vote in the upcoming primaries and caucuses for who will ultimately beat President Donald Trump even if they don't agree fully with all of Joe Biden's policy stances.

“I know that not all of you are committed to my husband, and I respect that,” she said. “But I want you to think about your candidate, his or her electability, and who’s going to win this race.”

Biden is seeking the Democratic nomination for president for a third time after two failed runs in 1988 and 2008.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden in N.H.: What if Barack Obama had been assassinated in 2008?