Biden: A Great Pick in Spite of the Concerns

My TMV colleague, Tony Campbell, says that Barack Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate is the death knell of the Democrats’ once-vaunted chances of taking the White House. Tony writes:

If I were a Democrat, I would be really worried about this choice for two reasons:

1. Biden probably will not give up his bid to be re-elected to the United States Senate. The question, of course, is how committed are you to being the Vice-President if you are hedging your bets.

2. The Republicans are sure to love the fact that the candidate of change has selected the ultimate Washington insider for his running mate…

Tony may be right with regard to the public perception of the Biden pick. And public perception, in some ways, is far more important than reality when it comes to political campaigns. But, two points:

(1) It’s pretty much standard operating procedure for senators who are vice presidential candidates to remain on the ballots for re-election to the Senate while campaigning for the higher office. Lyndon Johnson did it in 1960, as I recall. Hedging bets? Yeah, maybe. So what?

(2) It’ll be interesting for the McCain camp to try to argue that Biden’s tenure in Washington–thirty-six years–means he can’t bring change to the government. McCain, by my reckoning, has been there for twenty-six years, hardly making him a babe in the Washington woods.

I think instead, that there may be other problems with the Biden pick:

1. He doesn’t moderate Obama politically. Biden is a conventional liberal pol. Obama, I think, needed to pick more of a centrist to broaden his appeal and to reassure moderates and conservatives who want to boot the GOP out of the White House this year that he isn’t too liberal.

2. He doesn’t help Obama get a state he wouldn’t otherwise get or help him in a region where he isn’t otherwise competitive, namely the South.

3. It’s not clear, for all of his experience with foreign policy and national security, that Biden helps Obama in those areas with the electorate. In governing, Biden’s experience would help Obama mightily, no doubt. But the public has little or no perception of Biden in these areas.

4. Finally, it must be said that while Biden displayed great discipline throughout most of his campaign for the nomination, he is still prone to gaffes. (To be fair, I imagine that I would be too, if I were in the white hot spotlight of national politics.) Though Biden is a refreshing straight-talker, his penchant for shooting from the hip must concern the Obama camp.

During the pre-convention process, I thought that Joe Biden was not only, along with Bill Richardson, one of the two most credentialed of the candidates in the Democratic presidential field, but also the most impressive campaigner. His performances in the debates were sterling. A Biden-Obama ticket would have been far more potent, I think, at least in terms of governance after January 20, 2009.

Overall though, Obama has given us an important window into his thinking as well as his self-esteem. The guy willingly chose, irrespective of the red flags mentioned above, the best possible running mate in his party. That’s impressive.

The Biden selection also is a challenge to John McCain. With Obama having picked someone as obviously prepared to be president as Biden, McCain will have to choose someone of equal gravitas. He cannot make a flippant political choice. Already, owing to what I think are unfair and inappropriate concerns about McCain’s age, the GOP candidate had to have been feeling pressure to pick someone obviously prepared to be president. Now, those pressures will be intensified. That, to my mind, leaves out people like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, two swell fellows both lacking in gravitas or the chops to face off with Biden in debate. McCain cannot slip up here.

[For more scintillating bloggishness, go to my personal blog.]


  • DLS

    I am no lib or Dem and I say Biden was the best, strongest choice. I’ve already said enough about why, elsewhere. Others’ turn. Obama is in sound shape. Will McCain’s choice succeed or amount to anything?

  • kritt11

    It will be interesting to see McCain’s choice— Romney has gone on the record viciously attacking him, Giuliani has a checkered past, Ahhhnold is not a natural born citizen, and Lieberman is still to many Republicans– a Democrat. He should pick a noncontroversial choice like Dick Lugar or Tom Ridge. John Warner would be great if not for his age.

    I agree with Obama’s choice— I was for Biden before he withdrew because he’s smart, experienced and not afraid to assert himself.

  • DLS

    K, Tom Ridge is controversial. Freeze-nik back in the 1980s, anti-SDI.

    (“Bring him on!” you say, I know. Nail in the coffin…)

    Yes, Lieberman is good on foreign policy, but he’s a Democrat, after all.,0,517303.story

    * * *

    I say, McCain needs a red-meat conservative to give him any chance at all.

    Damage control! First, do no harm. And he’s supposed to be an alternative to the Dems, isn’t he?

    * * *

    Political-related stuff — which party is ascending, and which is descending?

  • KYJurisDoctor

    Joe Biden appears to be an EXCELLENT pick for Barack Obama.

    And John McCain has a new ad in which he uses Joe Biden’s “loose lips” against Barack Obama. This one HURTS, folks:

  • ChrisWWW

    1. He doesn’t moderate Obama politically. Biden is a conventional liberal pol. Obama, I think, needed to pick more of a centrist to broaden his appeal and to reassure moderates and conservatives who want to boot the GOP out of the White House this year that he isn’t too liberal.

    If the fact that Obama holds nothing but moderate positions isn’t enough to reassure moderates, then our country is full of gullible morons.

  • Mike_P

    Joe Biden is an outstanding pick. Finally, I can actually vote for a ticket, instead of against one.

  • StockBoySF

    Biden is a great pick and the Republicans would attack anyone that Obama had picked. Is it easier for the Republicans to attack Biden (and is there more to attack on Biden) than any other possible VP pick?

    Biden seems to have very strong credentials on family issues, he has a son who is heading off to Iraq in October, he is liked by at least some women’s groups. He’s Catholic, and he does have a lot of experience in Washington.

    The voters who like Obama because of his promise to bring change are not going to change their mind. The voters who have concerns about lack of experience will probably be comforted to see someone with Biden’s credentials (and someone who is not a “yes man” to Obama) on the ticket.

  • JSpencer

    StockBoySF : “Biden is a great pick and the Republicans would attack anyone that Obama had picked.”

    Exactly. Regardless of who Obama picked, the republicans would claim it was the worst possible choice and try to be gleeful about it. This is as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning.

  • kritt11

    DLS- bringing that up about Ridge would be like bringing up the fact that McCain was one of the Keating Five. Nobody cares anymore because its yesterdays news. As a Democrat, I hope he picks Romney– so that we can replay all of those interesting attacks on McCain, LOL

  • superdestroyer

    The Republican party is so weak and Senator McCAin such an inept candidate that Senator Obama could have picked Kwame Kilpatrick, Suge Knight, or Maxine Waters and Senator Obama would still win. The problem with the U.S. becoming a one party state is all of this discussion about running mates, television ads, or strategies is that it is pointless. I guess is gives everyone a reason to avoid talking about future policy decisions.

    To use a good example, the campaign website has pages uner the menu of people. Of course, whites or men are not mentioned as being people in the U.S. When a candidate can ignore whites and men, you know he is going to win no matter what the Republicans say or do.

    So please, instead of the Histrionics of a VP candiate who will be a trivia questionis a few decades, spend more time talking about what will happen to the U.S. when the Democrats control everything and the Republican Party can be ignored.

  • JSpencer

    SD: “Of course, whites or men are not mentioned as being people in the U.S.”

    Would you care to clarify that comment? I’m not sure what it’s intended to mean.

  • kritt11

    SD, I do believe that Obama picked a white man to be his running mate– if he was going to ignore whites and men he would have picked his wife for the VP slot.

  • kritt11

    I should add that he even picked a white male who made an offensive racial comment about him early in the campaign—LOL!

  • superdestroyer


    1. Go to
    2. click on the people tab.
    3. read the list of ethnic groups to which Senator Obama is pandering.
    4. Notive that whites and men are not there.

  • EKCer

    Overall, I love the Biden pick. A few points on your post.

    1. I agree that it’s not a problem that he will continue to run for the Senate. The Democrats strategically would prefer for him to run in the Senate, because he is more likely to keep the seat in the party than than someone else, though Delaware’s a pretty safe state for the Democrats any… Read Moreway. If Biden wins, he will be replaced by a Democrat.

    2. I don’t think he needed a moderate to balance his message. Besides, the whole liberal/conservative construct has been dealt a blow by Iraq and big-government Republicans. I wouldn’t call Obama a moderate, but he’s not the leftist many make him out to be. A good example is in the New York Times Magazine piece on Obama’s economics. It’s a long article, but worth reading, as you see Obama show an understanding of the good points in Reaganomics and the Chicago/Friedman camp. Here’s a link.

    3. I favored Richardson early on, and like you, I thought he and Biden, as well as Dodd were all more qualified than the media-selected top 3 candidates. However, I think that the quality of Clinton and Edwards shone through, and the primary process worked, and both parties picked their best.

  • JSpencer

    SD, if your insinuation is that Obama is not going to represent white men, then I’d say that springs from some sort of quasi-racist, paranoid well. I certainly hope that isn’t where you’re coming from. As a demographic, white men in this country have never been in any danger from limited access to opportunity or influence, and any suggestion that’s going to change under an Obama presidency is absurd.

  • kritt11

    If he were going to try to change it he would have picked Jesse Jackson instead of Joe Biden.

  • StockBoySF

    Yeah, my observation is pretty mundane…. but it seemed that this basic precept was missing in some of the comments and I just wanted to remind folks of it… My comment wasn’t meant to be anything profound…

  • StockBoySF

    SD, tons and tons of white men support Obama. Like JSpencer, I don’t know what you mean.

    If the Republican Party is going downhill it’s because the white men who control it aren’t open to any ideas other than their own outdated ones.

  • superdestroyer


    Senator Obama is going to get 98% of thw black vote but his campaign handlers still felt compelled to pander to blacks.. Senator Obama is going to get less than 50% of the white vote and less than 50% of the male vote, yet his campaign staff feels comfortable ignoring them.. That means that hsi campaign is very confident that they will win and that the choice of VP does ot matter in the least. It also means thta for all of the talk of change, Senator Obama is running a convential Democratic party campaign.

    The real question is what kind of policy positions will an Obama Administration take knowing that the republican Party has become irrelevant to politics and his Adminsitration can reward core Democartic groups.

  • kritt11

    SD- The Democratic candidate always panders to blacks— in the same way the GOP candidate always panders to evangelicals.