“Joe Biden has just been around too long to do that again,” Fowler said. “He is himself. And the association with Obama is not going to replace who he is.”
In his first five years as vice president, Biden has carved out an identity with core convictions that appeal to the Democratic base — on gun control, on gay marriage, on women’s rights. He doesn’t shy from speaking his mind; last year, he irked Obama’s advisers by publicly coming out ahead of the president in support of legalizing gay marriage.
Privately, Obama’s White House advisers often knock Biden as an unscripted politician drawn to the spotlight and prone to making gaffes. But what they see as a lack of discipline and polish, voters may admire as refreshing candor, supporters say.
“He’s genuinely witty; he’s spontaneous,” Shrum said. “I think it makes him much more real to voters.”
Biden is embracing his caricature. His office recently began a series of podcasts on the White House Web site called “Being Biden” that feature the vice president narrating a behind-the-scenes photograph to give fans a taste of his life. Early installments show Biden at his alma mater cheering on the University of Delaware’s Lady Blue Hens in their locker room during the NCAA playoffs; serving dinner rolls at a hunting club’s wild-game dinner; and showing off his West Wing desk to actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays a vice president in the HBO comedy series “Veep.”
‘It wasn’t a good deal’
These outtakes belie the seriousness of his role. Some historians have begun calling Biden the most powerful vice president of modern times. Obama tasked him with some of the top priorities of this administration — the 2009 economic stimulus and middle-class recovery, the war in Iraq, fiscal negotiations with Congress, and the push for stricter gun laws.
Biden established a reputation as the administration’s closer, the guy who can cut a deal with a bitterly divided and often paralyzed Congress.
Late last year, it was Biden who negotiated an accord with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to avoid the fiscal cliff. When reporters asked what his selling point was, a smiling Biden said, “Me.” Obama showered praise on the vice president, calling his work in brokering the compromise “extraordinary.”
But Biden’s decision to insert himself in those negotiations was not entirely welcome in all quarters of the White House. Some officials thought he bargained away too much of the leverage they had with the end of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and got too little in return. The deal did nothing to prevent the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester or to avert another crisis over the debt ceiling.