Biden says experience will fuel White House run

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
Tuesday, January 30, 2007; 4:47 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden said on Tuesday his foreign policy ideas and experience would be the ideal assets in a crowded and star-studded 2008 White House race that is likely to focus on ways to end the Iraq war.

The six-term Delaware senator, who will announce his presidential candidacy on Wednesday, said he was not worried about competing for money or support against high-profile Democratic contenders like Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

"It's not so much whether I can compete with their money, but whether they can compete with my ideas and my experience," Biden said in a Reuters interview, adding the rush of publicity around the first campaign trips by Obama and Clinton would fade.

"That was a gigantic response, but now what happens? You have to go town to town and sell yourself," he said. "I'm confident I can compete on any level with any one of them."

The new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who lost a 1988 presidential bid, has been a prominent congressional voice on Iraq, terrorism and foreign policy for decades.

Biden sponsored the nonbinding resolution approved by his Senate committee last week opposing Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

He said he had never seen Americans as "sober and serious" about the future as they are now.

"The American public understands the next president is going to have to be prepared to immediately step in and act without hesitation to end our involvement in the Iraqi conflict," Biden said.

"President Bush has dug us a deep hole, his foreign policy has made us more vulnerable, not stronger and safer, and his domestic policy has made the middle class more vulnerable," he said.

"I think I'm better prepared than any other candidate in either party to deal with those issues that are front and center."

Biden said more Republicans would speak out against Bush during the congressional debate on Iraq, further isolating the president.

"Once we fully engage this debate, he is going to find very little comfort in anything anybody has to say on the floor of the Senate," Biden said. "You are going to hear a cacophony of voices with one simple message. If that doesn't stop him, what does?"

Biden, the eighth Democrat to enter the 2008 White House race, typically registers in the low single digits in polls behind Clinton, Obama and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards.

He plans a trip next week to New Hampshire, which holds the first primary, and said his goal is to raise about $20 million to compete in early voting states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

That would put him well behind the $75 million to $100 million that favorites like Clinton and Obama could raise by the end of the year. But Biden said his $20 million would be enough.

"If I can raise $20 million, I know I connect when I'm in a room," he said. "I feel like we're in the game. It's not like we're starting from a place that's disadvantageous in those early states."

Biden, 64, was elected to the Senate in 1972. A month later his wife and young daughter were killed in a car wreck and his two young sons were injured. Since then, he has commuted to Washington by train each day from Delaware, an 80-minute trip.

Biden's 1988 presidential race foundered after he faced charges of plagiarizing stump speeches from other politicians, including Britain's then Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock. Biden said he learned valuable lessons from that campaign.

"The thing I learned the most is how to take a punch, a gut punch, and get back up. I was pretty naive 20 years ago," he said.

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