Joe Biden, Seeing No Way to Lose What Is Most Important

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 4, 2008

DES MOINES, Jan. 3 -- The lot of the second-tier candidate, through the campaign of Joe Biden:

Few handlers, few press, smaller crowds. The entourage, really, is his family. And if it frustrates Biden -- well, he's Biden, he'll tell you. He's not complaining, but when he got into this race, he didn't know the kind of money the other Democrats would be throwing around. He didn't know he'd get so little media attention.

"I thought that I would at least get coverage," he says.

But on the day of the Iowa caucuses, on a make-or-break day for the Delaware senator, Biden's campaign is swallowed by the great gaping maw of Obama-and-Hillary-and-Edwards. When he takes the stage late into the evening to announce he's dropping out, only one cable network bothers to carry a few seconds of his remarks.

Biden, 65, spends Thursday flying around the state with his family, just a press aide and a body man for staff, landing in towns (Waterloo, Dubuque, Davenport) where he gets crowds of 200. Clinton and Barack Obama easily draw 1,000 people. Mike Huckabee gets full-court press for a haircut.

But so be it.

In part because he's second-tier and in part because he's learned a lot since his first presidential run in 1987, Biden says, "one of the liberating things about it is, I'm not spending time trying to figure what to say."

Imagine, Joe Biden, not knowing what to say. His whole family is like that, straight shooters, damn the consequences. Biden's wife and three children, his siblings, a niece, a nephew and three grandchildren are all with him or working on the campaign elsewhere in the state. His 90-year-old mother is in Des Moines. "Every single Biden is out there, just making the case," says Biden's son Hunter, 37.

The candidate is sitting in a car in a parking lot in Des Moines on Wednesday evening, doing one last interview before heading out to press the flesh with caucusgoers. His wife, Jill, is in the front seat.

The pundits, "they think I'm not calculating," too blunt, Biden says.

"I would hope that Joe would never be a politician like Hillary Clinton," Jill interjects softly.

"Oh, c'mon now," Biden says. "Stop that."

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