Election Issues

bayh biden kaine, democrat vp, obama vp
Alex Brandon/J. Scott Applewhite/Adrin Snider/AP
Left to right: Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine

Campaign Profiles: Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidates

August 21, 2008
by findingDulcinea Staff
Widely considered to be Senator Obama’s top choices for vice president, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine are three Democrats with distinct political identities and experience. Below are brief biographies, as well as pros and cons of each, as summarized by political pundits across the Web.

Evan Bayh

Born the day after Christmas in 1955, Evan Bayh grew up in Shirkieville, Indiana in a popular Indiana political family. After earning a degree in business economics from Indiana University, Bayh continued on to study law at the University of Virginia, graduating in 1981. The future U.S. senator clerked in a federal court before opening up a private practice and running for Indiana secretary of state in 1986.

Bayh’s victory would be the first of many. He went on to win the state’s gubernatorial election in 1988 and ran successfully for the U.S. Senate in 1998, after two terms as Indiana’s governor.

Currently the member of five senate committees, including Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Armed Services and the Select Committee on Intelligence, Bayh has earned a reputation as a centrist who often works to cross party lines.

Bayh served as Chair of the Democratic Leadership Council for four years at the request of Bill Clinton and was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary; following the conclusion of the party contest, he became a vocal supporter of Barack Obama.

Bayh and his wife, Susan, have twin sons.
PROS: Hailing from a popular political family, the Indiana senator could most likely deliver his state to the Democrats for the first time since 1964 (and only the second time since 1936), providing Barack Obama with an additional 11 electoral votes. Further, Bayh’s Midwest personality and sensibility could engender support for Obama among the working-class, Rust Belt voters whose support the Illinois senator struggled to gain in the primary against Hillary Rodham Clinton. While not terribly popular among the Democrats’ more progressive wing, Bayh’s centrist Senate record could help Obama win over those right-of-center Republicans who may not want to support John McCain, but are still unsure about the freshman senator from Illinois.
CONS: Publicly connected with the Clintons since his Democratic convention keynote speech in 1996, Bayh’s relationship to Bill and Hillary may prove perilous when trying to keep the party’s more progressive supporters aboard. His role as the chair of the Democratic Leadership Committee, a centrist organization with deep connections to the Clintons, and comments he made during the primary as an outspoken supporter of Hillary Clinton could also complicate his relationship with the Obama camp. Bayh’s support for the war in Iraq and his participation on the Committee to Liberate Iraq (alongside John McCain and Joe Lieberman) distance him from the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party and could come back to haunt him among the party’s so-called “net-roots” crowd.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden was born on November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to an Irish-Catholic family who eventually relocated to Claymont, Delaware, a state he has represented as a U.S. senator since 1972.

After graduating from the University of Delaware and earning a law degree at Syracuse University, Biden ran for office, beating Caleb Biggs to become one of the youngest U.S. senators in history at the age of 29.

For much of the 36 years since, Biden has served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and concentrated heavily on legislation dealing with support and shelter for battered women.
Biden ran for president in the 1988 and 2008 elections, dropping out of the current race in January of this year. Biden has been married to his wife Jill for 30 years and has three children and five grandchildren.
PROS: The Delaware senator provides the foreign policy experience to offset charges that Obama has not had enough time on the international stage, and is known for fighting on his own, rather than following the centrist approach taken by the Democrats since Bill Clinton won his second term. While his off-the-cuff comments have often gotten him into hot water, they have just as commonly established him as a no-nonsense fighter for Democratic causes, as evidenced by his adamant and straightforward defense of Obama after George W. Bush accused him of appeasement earlier this year.
CONS: Biden’s past could play a large part in Obama’s future; charges of plagiarism from his late 1980s bid for the White House will most certainly be brought up in discussions about the senator’s record; Biden reportedly lifted passages from Neil Kinnock, the leader of the British Labour Party from 1983 to 1992. The event led to a more in-depth review of Biden’s writings and résumé, turning up a number of similar cases. While Biden’s nearly 36 years in the Senate provide an argument for experience, they also paint him as a Washington insider, contrasting with Obama’s message of new politics.

Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine has been governor of Virginia since 2006. Born on February 26, 1958, in St. Paul, Minnesota, he received his undergraduate education from the University of Missouri and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1983. A Catholic, Kaine volunteered with missionaries in Honduras for a year during law school and was the principal of a school there. He practiced law for 17 years in Richmond, Virginia, and taught legal ethics at the University of Richmond for six years. Entering the political arena as a member of the Richmond City Council in 1994, Kaine served four terms and became known for his work to reduce crime in the city. He was mayor for two of those terms. Before being elected governor, Kaine was lieutenant governor of Virginia from 2001 to 2005. He and his wife, Anne, have three children.
PROS: Kaine’s work as a city council member and his role as governor means that he is in touch with many of the issues most important to voters, such as employment, education and health care. He is also a popular Democratic governor in a red state “that has a chance of turning blue in November,” according to NPR’s Vox Politics blog, which adds that Kaine is also fluent in Spanish, has Latino community “cred” and, like Obama, can stand for a new brand of politics as a relative Washington “outsider.” The “South is the key that unlocks the White House door,” notes the Detroit Free Press. Historical precedent dictates that Obama must win a large portion of the South to be elected.
CONS: Kaine and Obama  are “two peas in a political pod,” says Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Neither has substantial foreign policy experience; they are “[b]oth Harvard Law graduates with Kansas roots, both attorneys with a central focus on civil rights, and both relatively new to the big leagues.” The latter is undoubtedly more of a personal draw for Obama than a political advantage. Kaine has only been in the governor’s office since 2006; his apparent inexperience has drawn criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, the suggestion being that Obama’s choice needs to complement his own experience, not mirror it.

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