Election 2008

Obama vice president, biden vice president, democrat vp
Alex Brandon/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and vice-presidential running
mate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., hold a rally in front of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.,
on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008.

The Meaning of the Obama-Biden Ticket

August 24, 2008 01:00 PM
by Liz Colville
The Obama team notified supporters that Sen. Joe Biden would be the Democratic candidate's running mate via text message early on Saturday, August 23. The choice of the senator from Delaware reflects a need to add experience, particularly in the area of foreign policy, to the Obama ticket.

Experienced Senator is Democrats' Candidate for VP

Biden was one of what the media called Obama's top three picks for the Democratic vice-presidential slot.

CNN's John King broke the story early on the morning of Saturday, August 23, preceding the Associated Press by about five minutes. Other reports followed, including the Washington Post, who announced the selection of the "two-time presidential candidate who has collected substantial foreign policy credentials in his three decades in the Senate." Biden ran for president until January of this year.

Speculation mounted that the choice, which Obama told reporters he had made on August 21, was Biden. Late on August 22, ABC News reported the dispatch of a Secret Service detail to Biden. The senator was also out of public sight for much of Friday.

Background: Long Search for VP Leaves Media Guessing

Senator Obama spent the summer narrowing down a group of vice-presidential contenders. Names widely discussed by the media included Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Gov. Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas, and Sens. Joe Biden, Evan Bayh and Hillary Clinton (although Clinton was reportedly not asked to submit records for the vice-presidential vetting process).

Up until the very day of the announcement, political pundits and reporters were stumped about the final decision, with the Obama campaign keeping “a tight veil of secrecy over the decision,” wrote Fox News. Last-minute names, such as Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, were reported by several sources, including Fox.

Most political insiders agreed that while Clinton supporters would have been happy to see her nominated as vice president, Sen. Obama needed a candidate who could balance his relative inexperience on the international stage.

Opinions & Analysis: The Significance of Biden

While Biden has been in the Senate for three decades, the significance of his role alongside Obama is something that many Americans may not immediately grasp. Biden's nomination arguably centers on his tenure on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Politico’s Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen break down the decision into the “five things the Biden pick says about Obama,” including the presidential candidate’s apparent lack of concern about the historical significance of a Southern running mate; Biden represents Delaware. To that end, Obama “seems confident he can put a few states in the Old Confederacy in play by stoking African-American turnout.”

Old accusations of plagiarism will likely serve as Biden’s Achilles’ heel during the presidential campaign; it was alleged in 1987 that he had plagiarized speech material from Neil Kinnock, then leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party, and had also copied material in an essay he wrote in law school. R. W. Apple, Jr. wrote in the New York Times that year that the allegations could end Biden’s career. They did not, but the matter will surely be resurrected between now and November 7.

Obama introduced Biden as his running mate at a rally in Springfield, Ill., on August 23. Obama’s rhetoric presented his fellow senator as not only experienced in foreign policy, but in line with his out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new political message. “I have seen this man work,” Obama said. “I have sat with him as he chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and been by his side on the campaign trail. And I can tell you that Joe Biden gets it. He’s that unique public servant who is at home in a bar in Cedar Rapids and the corridors of the Capitol; in the VFW hall in Concord, and at the center of an international crisis.”

Prior to the decision, David Brooks of The New York Times wrote that he hoped Biden would be chosen. His weaknesses, Brooks wrote on August 22, “are on the surface,” and he has true working-class roots. “Even today, after serving for decades in the world’s most pompous workplace, Senator Biden retains an ostentatiously unpretentious manner.”

Time’s Mark Halperin contends that Biden’s greatest asset will be his foreign relations tenure. Biden has “served as chairman of both the Judiciary Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee, traveling the globe to meet world leaders and to be directly involved in almost every major international and domestic debate of the last two generations.” Unfortunately, Biden is also known for a “persistent tendency to say silly, offensive, and off-putting things,” Halperin adds.

A notable example was during the 2005 confirmation hearings of Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts, where Biden “was at his very worst—long-winded, self-involved, and off message.” Halperin suspects, “Over the next few days (and, likely, weeks) some of Biden's ungreatest hits of gab will be recycled by the media and Republicans aiming to take the luster off Obama's choice of running mate.”

Key Player: Senator 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. He has been married to his wife Jill for 30 years and has three children and five grandchildren.

Reference: Elections 2008 Special Section


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