Fresh off the announcement, these are my initial thoughts on the strategic pros and cons of Biden being named Obama’s running mate:
(a note on my personal opinion at the end)
- Chemistry: The chemistry is right. They have an established working relationship having worked well together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (with Biden being Barack’s ‘boss’).
- Ends the Clinton Drama: After the speeches and roll-call next week, the post-primary Clinton drama will be ended. There will be no issue of what to do with “Bill” had Barack picked Hillary.
- Scrappy Fighter: Barack can remain above the fray during the election campaign while Biden (who is no shrinking violet) gets down and dirty in the presidential fight/debates – similar to what Cheney did for Bush. He’ll effectively handle the Republican attack machine — in the words of Chris Matthews, “the Carl Rove, divisive, swift boating, character assassinating partisanship that calls every disagreement treason or appeasement, every electoral rival an enemy of the people”. Ha!
- McCain Knowledge: Since Biden has worked with McCain for his entire career and knows him intimately, he’s strategically positioned to go toe-to-toe in debating McCain and his VP on every policy issue.
- First Rate Debater: He’s a terrific debater. He’s well versed in every major policy area. He’ll be a good debater against any McCain VP pick.
- Foreign Policy Chops: He’s extremely knowledgeable on foreign affairs and military policy (shoring up a perceived Obama weakness – he called for the surge YEARS before either Bush or McCain did). Biden should send flowers to Putin for the South Ossetia affair – which probably secured Biden’s place on the ticket. He has established personal working relationships with most every major foreign leader. Has travelled the world widely.
- Third Pennsylvania Senator: While Biden is a senator from Delaware, he was born in Scranton Pennsylvania – a key battleground state that Hillary won in the primaries. Given Delaware’s proximity and overlapping media markets with Philadelphia, Biden’s considered Pennsylvania’s third senator. While Bush took most of Pennsylvania in 2004, Kerry won the state by taking Eastern Pennsylvania – the part closest to the Delaware border.
- Works Well with Republicans: He’s regarded as a unifying senator that routinely worked across party lines – especially with Lugar and Hagel on Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
- “Average Joe” with Compelling American Story: He’s considered to be a charming, regular, ‘average Joe’, family man from “Scranton” that average American’s can relate to. He’s not an Ivy league elitist – the usual democratic Achilles heal. Like Bush, he’s the kind of guy that average American voters can relate too. He’s the son of a car salesman that worked his way up through a state college without affluent parents. He overcame the death of his first wife and daughter on the day he was sworn in as a senator. He is the poorest senator with a net worth of about $300Kish. He’s taken a train to and from his home in Wilmington Delaware every night during his years in the senate. He knows the name of every ticket taker. Won’t have a problem remembering how many homes he owns!
- White Guy Can Take on Race Issue: He’s an older, well-liked, white guy, that can offset, somewhat, race as an issue – as was shown, for example, to be a deciding factor for 20% of the primary voters in Tennessee. He’ll be able to discuss the ‘race issue’ with reluctant white, working class Hillary voters in an way that Obama can’t.
- Hillary Supporters and Women Voters: Biden is not an affront to Hillary’s supporters who would have been upset had he picked another woman other than Hillary. Has been a strong proponent of woman’s issues. Is pro choice. Author of Violence Against Women Act. Lead fight in senate against supreme court appointments likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. More appealing to the older Hillary supporters than Obama is.
- Jewish Vote: He’s been an ardent supporter of Israel. He has long established relationships with all of the major Israeli party leaders.
- He’s Catholic: Won’t take a hit for any of the silly religious war reasons (ie: not a Mormon or a member of a ‘extremist’ church like Obama was). Good for picking up the Catholic vote.
- Staunch Supporter of Universal Healthcare: A major issue and concern of the majority of Americans.
- No “New’ Baggage: He meets the “do no harm” test. The historic plagiarism issues were fully hashed through during his earlier presidential run. Old news won’t hurt Biden/Obama. Voters don’t look to the past. They generally look to the future.
- Talks Too Much: Perceived to be too much of a blow hard that won’t shut up.
- Minor Economic Policy Chops: Economic policy experience would be important in an ideal running mate choice. Not perceived as an economic genius.
- Two Senators: It’s relatively rare for senators to be elected president, let alone two senators. Kennedy/Johnston were the last two senators to win – an apt analogy given that Obama is seen to be Kennedy’esque.
- Change Message: Obama’s been the ‘change’ candidate. Taking a 36 year senator as a running mate is arguably contrary to the change message.
- Campaign Sound Bites: On record as saying Barack wasn’t ready to be President in primary debates. Makes good fodder for Republican commercials (as we’ve already seen). But the same would be true for any person that ran against Obama. And McCain will have this problem if he picks Romney. An issue that the Obama and McCain campaigns will have no long term problem with.
Personal Opinion of Biden
I’ve been a U.S. political junky for about 10 years now. He’s one of the very short list of U.S. politicians that, to my mind, are generally fair-minded and mostly non-partisan. He’s someone that puts country ahead of party politics. He’s honest. He’s a straight shooter. He’s a statesman. He’s smart, thoughtful and very much ‘plugged in’ to foreign an military policy issues. I rarely disagree with him. He was my first choice VP candidate and I’m very happy Barack came to the same conclusion.