Getting to know Joe

Wednesday, August 27th 2008, 4:01 pm
By: News 9

By Karin Caifa, for NEWS 9

Aug. 27, 2008

DENVER -- Long after Hillary Clinton came and went from this hall Tuesday night, another figure took the stage. By that time only a tiny fraction of the evening's audience remained -- some fishing for those leftover banners that read "Hillary" on one side, and "Unity" on the other, others beginning the monumental task of cleaning out the arena and getting it prepared for the next day's events.

That figure was Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, just days into his stint as Barak Obama's vice presidential pick. Tonight, he'll formally accept his nomination and give a speech. And while Biden has only had a few days to settle into his new role, it's the speech of a lifetime.

The evening's theme, "Securing America's Future," was nailed down well before Biden was announced as Obama's choice, but Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign relations Committee, slides into his speaking slot perfectly. For anyone concerned about Obama's mettle for handling the big national security questions facing the nation, Biden's speech is aimed at quelling those fears.

In addition to foreign policy, there will likely be a nod to Biden's working-class, Catholic, Scranton, Pennsylvania, roots, as he attempts to silence critics who tag Obama as an "elitist," and out of touch with middle America.

Perhaps most importantly, Biden can play the attack dog. As Obama's campaign languished in the polls throughout the summer months, some Democrats criticized the Illinois senator for not attacking GOP rival John McCain with enough bite and bile. Biden's speech in Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, was a sign of things to come. Repeatedly linking his Senate colleague to the failed policies of the Bush administration, he said, "I say with every fiber of my being, I believe we cannot as a nation stand for four more years of this."

The Republicans, of course, have taken aim at Biden since the announcement. They've sought to characterize the tough-talking Biden as a loose cannon, and a liability. And former GOP presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani said tapping Biden defied political logic. "The normal political thing to do, in terms of the best decision to make to win, would've been to pick Hillary Clinton," Giuliani said. "It is a no-brainer. She got 18 million votes. Joe got 9,000 votes," he added, taking a swipe at Biden's failed primary campaign.

But in her speech here last night, Clinton herself praised Obama's choice. He is a strong leader and a good man," she said. "He understands both the economic stresses here at home and the strategic challenges abroad. He is pragmatic, tough, and wise."

"Pragmatic, tough, and wise," are big assets to a ticket that also includes a first-term senator. So in his shirt sleeves and red tie after a long, emotional night of speeches here in Denver, Joe Biden took a moment to try the podium on for size. After three decades in Washington, Biden's decided that the role of vice president could fit him just right.