Amid the hyper inflated excitement that still follows Republican
vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wherever she goes, it is
sometimes easy to forget that she has a rival for the job – Joseph
Remember him? You know, the grey-haired guy Barack Obama picked to be his running mate on the Democratic party ticket.
When he strode out onto the stage in Denver to accept his party’s nomination, Joe Biden had the media’s full attention.
Two days later it was gone. And it seems he has struggled ever since to get it back.
What happened? Sarah Palin happened. Everywhere she goes, a large media posse follows.
In contrast, Joe Biden’s press plane travels the country with a large number of conspicuously empty seats.
Supporters of the Delaware senator say he is quietly getting on
with the job, going from town to town, meeting voters, patiently
answering their questions and making the case that he and Barack Obama
represent the real change in the race for the White House.
Blue collar votes
On the campaign trail Joe Biden has been trying to stress that,
with every fibre of his working class roots, he understands the pain of
ordinary American families in these troubled economic times –
understands in a way, he says, that his old friend John McCain simply
That, of course, was partly why he was picked: to appeal to an important part of the electorate with which Barack Obama has
consistently struggled to connect – blue collar workers.
It was also assumed that Mr Biden would act as the sharp-tongued attack dog, allowing Mr Obama to remain above the fray.
With his long experience in the Senate, especially on the
Foreign Affairs Select Committee, it was argued that Joe Biden could
simultaneously fill the perceived gaps in Mr Obama’s resume and go toe
to toe with John McCain – one old scrapper to another.
Mr Biden has stuck to his task. But he has not set the world on
fire. Then again, perhaps he was not meant to – that has always been
Barack Obama’s strong suit.
Joe Biden was meant to be the reassuring older hand helping to
guide the charismatic presidential challenger safely towards the White
He was, in a way, the classic “do no harm” pick for vice-president.
Despite concerns about his reputation for long-winded ramblings,
sprinkled with the occasional spice of verbal gaffes, Joe Biden has
hardly put a foot wrong.
Two recent quotes have raised some eyebrows though, and, interestingly, perhaps raised his media profile again.
- First, he said Hillary Clinton may have been a better choice for
the vice-presidential nomination (after all the effort at the Denver
convention to heal party wounds, why on Earth would he want to expose
that scar again?)
- Then he said that wealthy people should consider it their patriotic
duty to pay higher taxes. That brought rapid fire from the McCain-Palin
campaign team and at least got the television pundits talking about him
But it is his next big moment in the spotlight that will really test
Joe Biden’s calibre – the vice-presidential debate in Missouri on 2
Insider vs. hockey mom?
Joe Biden and Sarah Palin actually have some things in common.
Both claim to speak the language of the ordinary, hard-working,
American family. Both eschew ivy league intellectualism. Both have sons
serving in Iraq.
But, of course, it will be the differences everyone will be focusing on.
Joe Biden’s task will be to paint his opponent as untried and untested; too risky to place a heartbeat away from the presidency.
But he has to make that case without appearing patronising or
demeaning, or in any other way opening himself up to the charge of
The silver-haired, battle-hardened, Washington insider versus the self-styled hockey mom from the remote reaches of Alaska.
It is one of the most keenly anticipated bouts of the entire
election, and perhaps more than any of its predecessors, it could have
a real influence on the outcome.