Obama Calls His Pick, Biden, Both a Statesman and Fighter

Barack Obama introduced Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) as his choice for vice presidential candidate at a rally Saturday in Springfield, Ill. Obama and Biden spoke together for the first time as the 2008 Democratic ticket. Video by APEditor: Jacqueline Refo/washingtonpost.com
By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 24, 2008

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Aug. 23 -- Sen. Barack Obama introduced Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. as his vice presidential running mate here on Saturday, embracing him as a "statesman with sound judgment" who had never forgotten his humble roots or lost his fundamental decency.

"Joe Biden is that rare mix. For decades, he has brought change to Washington, but Washington hasn't changed him," Obama (Ill.) said.

The announcement -- made official only hours earlier -- capped weeks of speculation and brought an infusion of experience and aggressiveness to the Democratic ticket two days before the start of the convention in Denver.

Biden, 65, a sharp-witted and energetic foreign policy expert who has held two of the most critical Senate chairmanships, bounded out onto the stage just after 2 p.m. Central time. The senator from Delaware hugged Obama and then, taking the podium as the vice presidential candidate for the first time, eagerly assumed the role of attack dog against the presumptive Republican nominee.

Biden said Sen. John McCain -- although a longtime friend -- has "yielded to the very Swift boat politics he once deplored" during the course of the current race. And he made fun of McCain for recently forgetting that he owns seven properties, saying McCain cannot understand what struggling Americans discuss over their kitchen tables.

"He'll have to worry which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at," Biden said.

Obama settled on Biden during his vacation in Hawaii the week before but did not make his choice known, even to the other contenders, until late in the week, aides said. He called Biden on Thursday night to offer him the job, catching him at the dentist during his wife's root canal procedure.

That set into motion a cloak-and-dagger operation to bring the two together here Saturday. After the appearance, Biden and his wife, Jill, conducted interviews and were photographed with Obama and his wife, Michelle. When Michelle Obama and Jill Biden met Saturday, after speaking first by phone, they had what one person in the room described as an "instant comfort level." They discussed the pending glare of the cameras at the convention and shared anecdotes about their children.

The Bidens returned to Delaware after Saturday's event and are scheduled to fly to Denver on Monday. The two families plan to campaign together again after the convention.

Biden is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and also served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He commands a loyal, if small, clutch of followers in the battleground state of Iowa, having twice campaigned for president there.

His home state of Delaware has just three electoral votes, but he is originally from Pennsylvania, a critical swing state with 21. Democrats hope he can help break down any perceptions of elitism on the ticket, especially among working-class white voters.

Biden does not come without risks. Accusations that he plagiarized then-British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock helped sink his presidential campaign in 1987. During the primaries, Biden also attacked Obama aggressively, questioning his lack of experience. Those comments had already resurfaced in a McCain ad released shortly before the announcement was made official; it also quotes Biden, in 2005, praising the Republican.

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