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

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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

Democrats largely embraced the choice, although some supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed disappointment that Obama's top challenger in the primaries was never considered for the second slot. A senior Obama adviser confirmed that Clinton was not asked for paperwork but said it was because she had asked Obama not to vet her unless he was seriously considering her.

It appears Obama never did. A Clinton loyalist who talked to her throughout the process said the senator from New York did not want to "make him feel he had to stage a Kabuki theater process for her" by pretending to consider her if he did not want to.

"She made it crystal clear in public and in private that this was entirely his decision to make any way he wanted, choose whomever he wanted," the loyalist said. "Clearly, he had no interest. No meetings, no conversations, no requests for information, no real consideration whatsoever. And that was his prerogative."

A new McCain TV ad aims to tap into the frustration of Clinton supporters over the decision by suggesting that Obama dissed his onetime rival. "Why? For speaking the truth," a narrator says.

The ad shows clips of Clinton criticizing Obama for vaguely discussing how he would govern and for his connections to Chicago developer Antoin Rezko. "The truth hurt. And Obama didn't like it," the narrator concludes.

Clinton issued a statement praising Biden, and some close to her said the choice of Biden validated their belief that experience is an important trait in the race -- even though as a 35-year veteran of Washington he does not project an image of "change."

"Senator Obama has continued in the best traditions for the vice presidency by selecting an exceptionally strong, experienced leader and devoted public servant," Clinton said.

Obama and Biden made their joint debut in front of a crowd of tens of thousands at the old Illinois statehouse, where the presumptive Democratic nominee launched his campaign a year and a half ago. The first blue "Obama-Biden" signs were on display -- quickly produced under the cloak of secrecy as the campaign tried to keep the announcement from leaking.

In his introductory remarks, Obama described Biden's life story: as a boy raised on Catholic values in working-class Pennsylvania; as a young senator who lost his first wife and daughter in a car accident; as a senator who had fought against tyranny and injustice.

It was clear from Obama's speech that he views Biden as bringing dual assets: being able to play the role of a down-to-earth fighter, appealing to Catholics and the working class; and serving as a statesman and expert on foreign policy.

"He is still that scrappy kid from Scranton who beat the odds -- the dedicated family man and committed Catholic who knows every conductor on that Amtrak train to Wilmington. That's the kind of fighter who I want by my side in the months and years to come," Obama said.

He described Biden as being "at home in a bar in Cedar Rapids" as well as on the world stage -- two settings in which Obama has struggled over the course of the race. Scranton is of particular significance for Obama: Clinton, who also has family from the area, dominated it in the primaries.


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