Most of the weekend’s media coverage of Barack Obama’s pick of Joe Biden to be his vice-presidential running mate focused on two competing, though related, angles:
First, that Biden was a good choice because he will shore up Obama’s perceived lack of experience, especially on foreign policy issues; Biden is the current chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Secondly, commentators (as well as the McCain campaign) have highlighted some telling quotes from Biden during his second presidential bid last year – that Obama is not experienced enough for the White House and that he (Biden) would be honored to run with (or against) McCain for president.
Republicans may – to some degree – also try to make mileage out of Biden’s more trivial verbal gaffes he’s delivered over the years. But those remarks (unlike the ones appearing in the McCain ad) will likely not damage the Obama campaign. The fact that Biden is so affable and generally well regarded – by the media and his fellow Republicans – means it will be pretty easy to dismiss such comments as Biden “shooting from the hip.�?
In fact, it is Biden’s easy-going, no-nonsense nature and regular-guy flair that will make him a formidable opponent in the Vice-Presidential debate. Biden’s use of humor and speaking style helps him to mask what should be his biggest weakness as Obama’s runningmate: that Biden is a liberal Senator with a very liberal voting record.
It is well known that National Journal’s 2007 voting record analysis deemed Barack Obama to be the nation’s most liberal Senator. But Biden himself ranked third on that very list – just one one-hundredth of a point behind second place, and just ahead of none other than socialist-leaning Bernie Sanders of Vermont (a Senator so liberal he does not even daydream of becoming President).
The Obama-Biden ticket might rival the most liberal Democratic presidential tickets ever assembled; it is certainly more liberal than the John Kerry/John Edwards ticket in 2004.
Republicans will no doubt try to use this to their advantage, but, with Biden, the criticism and liberal tag just might not stick. In the 2007 Democratic primary presidential debates Biden’s skilled oratory made him appear to be many things – a satirist, a guy you’d want to have a beer with, and, perhaps most importantly, the most conservative candidate on the stage.