Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama's 'clean, articulate' running mate

CNN has confirmed what they first reported an hour ago upon learning that the Secret Service was on its way, that Barack Obama will pick Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware as his running mate.

Biden is actually a great choice. When he ran for President last year I wasn't much of a Biden fan, writing him off as just another Senator who had voted for the Iraq war (i.e. John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton.) And it is true that Biden voted for the Iraq war. But unlike Hillary Clinton, he's not the kind of guy who will have trouble admitting that he made a mistake when he did so (i.e. that Barack Obama was right, back then in 2002 when he opposed it publically.)

Further, Biden is a scrapper. That much has always been clear, and it was in his political career. Remember he ran for President once before (back in 1988) and was derailed by a scandal that seems a non-issue today-- that he had lifted some lines from a British politician's speech. But he didn't quit after that. He ran and won re-election to the Senate two years later and then clawed his way back until he was in a position of leadership in the Senate (Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee) and was to the point where he could run for President again. And if Republicans want to bring up the plagiarism issue from twenty years ago, then it's fair to go back to the "Keating five" scandal that McCain was involved in during the 1980's.

Biden also helps secure a key state. Not Delware, which he represents in the Senate (and whose three electoral votes Obama will win anyway.) But rather Pennsylvania. Remember that after a six week primary campaign (Pennsylvania being the only state with a primary scheduled in April) Hillary Clinton scored a solid win over Obama in the primary. So I doubt much if Obama is very excited about spending a lot more time in a state where he would be playing defense anyway (Kerry having won it in 2004) after having invested so much time and money there during the primary and still getting beat. However, Democrats have to put it away, and Biden will help for three reasons. The first is because Biden is a Pennsylvanian, hailing originally from Scranton (an area where he still has lots of family, strong ties and is quite popular). In April, Scranton was a Clinton stronghold. The second is that as an important Senator from Delaware, Biden gets a lot of play in the Philadelphia media market. People there have listened to everything from his commercials to reports on what he is doing for years. Philadelphia TV covers the southeastern part of the state, where Democrats have to roll up large margins to win. Obama carried most of it in April, but this is one place where at least politically Biden really does 'complement' Obama. The third reason is that Biden, who grew up in a working class family and still commutes from Delaware to Washington (as one of the poorest men in the Senate monetarily) is exactly the kind of working class Democrat that Hillary Clinton won and Barack Obama has been struggling with.

He also makes it very, very hard for McCain to pick Mitt Romney in particular as a running mate. McCain's $500 shoes and losing track of how many houses he owns have already allowed Obama to cast McCain as an elitist, and if McCain chooses Romney then Obama would make all kinds of hay comparing Biden's working class background with Romney's multi-millionaire background, thereby amplifying the whole 'elitist' label. Further, if Romney is on the ticket then Biden's relatively mild criticism of Obama during the debates would be contrasted to some of the really negative ads that Romney ran against McCain. Since I believe that for a variety of reasons Romney would be McCain's best choice (if he could get past the chemistry issues), I can now almost see Obama thinking, "Go ahead, make my day" to a potential Romney pick (Biden is the perfect guy, especially given McCain's recent flubs, to best neutralize Romney and turn the pick back on McCain if he makes it.)

During the debates, Biden did sparkle, showing both humor and quick thinking, and offering clear answers to questions. He was so far behind that it did him little good but he will certainly have a great opportunity to show the same flair during the veep debate.

One commentator on CNN suggested that Vladimir Putin may have had as much to do with Biden's being picked as anyone else. That may be true. Events like the war in Georgia bring national security to the forefront, and if it is in people's minds going into the voting booth, they are more likely to put aside any misgivings they may have about Obama's relative inexperience if they know that an experienced guy like Biden will be among his closest advisors.

Oh, yeah. And about that 'clean, articulate' comment. I hope that Obama will have the presence of mind tomorrow to refute the people who claim he has no sense of humor and introduce Biden as his 'clean, articulate' running mate. But if he doesn't, you can be sure that Biden will joke about it. He does have a sense of humor, for sure.


Anonymous said...

Next week Obama will give a riveting speech. Then Biden will rewind the teleprompter and give it again.

shrimplate said...

By then the rightwing noise machine will have repeated the same old craptastic neoconman talking points thousands of times.

Eli Blake said...


Hardy har har. Can't you come up with something new?


That's one of the best things about Biden though. He's run for President before so we pretty much know what his warts are, and they aren't all that bad.