Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joe Biden: Feel The Excitement!

Joe Biden it is. And I like it.

I don't much like the way Obama made the announcement, and not just because his campaign sent out the text message at 3:30 am Eastern Time. If he had made the call on Wednesday, he'd have a solid week of great press coverage. Wednesday through Friday would have been glowing coverage of Biden, Saturday and Sunday would have been an amalgam of VP and convention stories and Monday through Wednesday next week would have been a series of positive visuals from picturesque Denver. Instead we get a 3:30 am announcement, two days of weekend coverage (Saturday and Sundays are the worst news days) and process stories about why it took Obama so damn long.

But the pick itself I like. Obama clearly wasn't going to touch Hillary Clinton with a ten foot pole. Evan Bayh is about as exciting as a fifth grade play your child isn't in, Tim Kaine has too many question marks and Kathleen Sebelius is an unknown.

The pundits and commentators think Biden's biggest strength is as a burnish for Obama's foreign policy credentials. They're not wrong, but I think what the selection really says is that Barack Obama takes this governing thing seriously. (Well, that's what the campaign wants the selection to say. Whether you agree or not is probably a matter of partisan affiliation) Obama had options that made more electoral sense. Kaine could have helped push Obama over the top in Virginia, while Bayh could have made Indiana competitive.

But instead of going that route, Obama's campaign can claim, he chose a senator from a solidly blue state. Biden will help in Pennsylvania, his birth state, and blue collar voters will like his boxer's mentality, but you don't choose Joe Biden if you're picking a VP for electoral reasons. You choose Biden because you want a guy with experience, someone who'll be able to help a presidential administration and even take over in the event of a national tragedy. Obama sacrificed politics for wisdom.

That's the spin. Realistically, the political repercussions extend beyond electoral votes. You choose Biden so you can write everything I just wrote about helping your administration and adding an experienced voice. You choose Biden so you get his sharp tongue campaigning for you in rural Ohio, mocking McCain and whoever he chooses as his running mate.

It's not a choice without risk. Back when I talked about Biden in my award-winning VP Profile series, I mentioned the "babysitter dynamic." With this pick, Obama's trying to say, "When that phone rings at 3:00 am, Joe Biden will be there to add an experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent voice to the discussion." What you risk telling voters is, "When that phone rings at 3:00 am, Joe Biden will answer it and make all the decisions." There's a chance that next to Biden's 471 years of experience, Obama will look shallow and weak.

But there's no such thing as a perfect choice. Considering the realistic options, Biden was the best individual available to Obama. Aside from the political considerations, I really do believe that Biden could be a true asset for an Obama administration. He's someone any president should listen to, and I like the idea that Obama's looking for those voices.

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