Saturday, August 23, 2008

How Joe Biden's Pros - and Cons - Help Obama

Where Does McCain Go From Here?

They'll soon be calling it the O-Biden or the Joe-Bama ticket. Either way, Barack Obama has decided to live on the edge a little, and nab Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate.

The pros are obvious and widely known - Biden complements Obama and fills in his perceived gaps as a presidential candidate:

Foreign policy. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Biden made a trip to Georgia at the request of the country's president last week, and also traveled to Pakistan in February this year to oversee its landmark elections - both regions are fragile at the moment and sure to be prominent foci in the foreign policy debate from here through November. This makes Biden a legitimate, credible challenge to the people in the McCain campaign, who often pound on Obama for his lack of foreign policy experience. To top it off, Biden's son Beau, currently Delaware's Attorney General, will be stationed in Iraq in October - another factor that can put him on equal footing with McCain, whose son Jimmy has also been serving there.

Working class/blue collar white Americans. A persistent challenge for Barack Obama, who despite his modest middle-class background, can't seem to lure this demographic into his column the way Hillary Clinton did in the primaries. Biden was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Clinton's grandparents were from, and Pennsylvania is a key battleground state that Obama lost to Clinton earlier in the year. Biden is renowned there and across the country as the regular guy - a lunch-bucket, working class Democrat.

Women. Something very significant that I haven't yet heard much about today - Biden has been instrumental in the fight against domestic violence, a leading issue for women. In 1994, along with what has become known as the Biden Crime Law, Joe Biden also authored the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), with avid support from the National Organization for Women (NOW), who heralded it as the "greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women in nearly two decades." The VAWA led to billions of dollars in funding for measures to combat gender-based crime, which dropped significantly since its passing and continue to do so. Biden's record here is important because it can potentially bring a large number of disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters who are now looking at voting for McCain (or not voting at all) back into the fold. As recently as today, NOW has praised Obama's pick, and even Geraldine Ferraro, a close friend of Clinton who was visibly and vocally disillusioned by Obama's winning the Democratic nomination, said today that his selection demonstrated his ability to exercise "good judgment".

Character and Faith. In recent years, this factor has become almost central to American voters, evidenced by the massive coverage given to televangelist Rick Warren's interviews with the two candidates at the Saddleback Church "Faith Forum" last week. Not only is Biden a Catholic (a key swing voter group that has so far been leaning heavily towards McCain), but he has a remarkable history of working through the tragedy of losing his wife and baby daughter in a car accident shortly after his election to the Senate at age twenty nine. Taking his inaugural oath at the hospital, Biden raised his sons - both of whom were critically injured in the accident but eventually made complete recoveries - as a single dad until he remarried five years later. To this day, as he did then, he commutes an hour and a half to Washington daily from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. This doesn't say patriotism as directly as McCain's POW experience in Vietnam, but does demonstrate the same strength of character and perseverance that will appeal to "values" voters.

Tongue. Biden may be better at "straight talk" than McCain himself. Politically, he has shown an affinity for going on the attack, and can competently shoot back the kind of one-liner soundbites that the Republican attack machine is so good at (and Democrats aren't). Obama has visibly shown a weakness and discomfort with this aspect of politics, and with Biden at his side, he is free to stay on the high road and leave the sparring to Biden.

What's interesting about this pick is that even Biden's weaknesses can work in Obama's favor.

As politically incorrect as they may seem, Biden's most famous gaffes - including the one about Obama being the first "mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean...", or the one seemingly acknowledging the stereotype of East Indians working at 7-11s and Dunkin Donuts - are, unfortunately, something that a lot of Americans relate to, specifically in the so-called "working class" demographic that Barack Obama has had so much trouble with. (I know I'm going to get blasted for saying that, but it's true.) The fact that Biden even walks into a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts from time to time paints a striking contrast between him and the arugula-eating Obama or the seven-mansion-owning, married-into-a-$100-million-beer-fortune McCain.

Biden's second potential weakness is his support for the resolution to go to war with Iraq, Obama's opposition to which may arguably be the single most important reason he's the Democratic nominee today.

In response to the McCain campaign's allegations against Obama, accusing him of being an arrogant egotistical messiah, complete with television ads sarcastically referring to him as "The One", the Obama campaign seems ready to spin the selection of Joe Biden as proof that Obama is not only aware of his weaknesses, but also willing and able to surround himself with people who complement those weaknesses instead of with sycophantic yes-men, the kind George W. Bush is widely thought to have a fondness for. This may help resolve the discrepancy in Obama's and Biden's Iraq war votes. The fact that Biden suggested sending more troops to Iraq well before McCain began actively promoting the Surge - his core claim to fame - may give him further street cred.

As a longtime friend of Joe Biden (who possesses many of the qualities that he has criticized Obama for being deficient in), John McCain will find it difficult to criticize him. Where does he go from here?

Well, a lot of his chances at winning the presidency may now depend on his own vice presidential pick.

Among the three candidates on both tickets so far, the foreign policy aspect, the patriotism factor, and the decades-of-experience factor are all now relatively balanced. So is the need to appeal to the working class/blue-collar voters who want a candidate that shares their values. With Biden's admirable record on women's issues, the Obama-Biden ticket also has many of those disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters thinking about coming back. So now, the McCain camp's idea of selecting a woman as his running mate has also been bumped down the priority list.

There are two areas that still need to be addressed:

1. A lack of executive experience: McCain, Obama, and Biden are all senators and have never actually governed. The last sitting senator to be elected president was John F. Kennedy. Both Bushes, Bill Clinton, Reagan, Carter, and Ford were governors.

2. The economy: This is the main concern for most Americans this year. There is no candidate on either ticket so far that has any sort of commanding expertise on the issue of the economy.

For John McCain, the only candidate that can potentially fill both of these holes is Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and a famously successful businessman whose credentials in both of these areas helped propel him to the runner-up position in the Republican primaries.

There are already signs that Romney is in serious consideration as the Republicans' VP pick. This includes the very public touting by the McCain campaign of Tom Ridge (governor, Pennsylvania) and Joe Lieberman (ex-Democrat and current independent Senator, Connecticut) as potential VP candidates - both of whom are pro-choice - met by the anger of many Republican base voters who already look at John McCain as a closeted liberal.

Romney, on the other hand, was initially pro-choice, and later switched to a pro-life position. If presented as a candidate de novo, this prominent flip-flop may have angered the Republican base just as much. But coming after the Ridge/Lieberman scare, Romney's selection may be seen as a welcome relief, thanks to relativity. (Well, a psycho-social extrapolation of it, anyhow.)

As for how to attack the Obama-Biden ticket, I wish I had some suggestions. But, if we're in the "His middle name is Hussein! Oh no!" vein, the insertion of the acronym for the National Liberal Alliance (NLA) right in the middle of Joe Biden's last name would cause the ticket to read:

"Obama-BiNLAden '08".

I can like, totally feel Karl Rove's eyes lighting up right now. Unfortunately, Karl, there's no such thing as the National Liberal Alliance. Yet.

Gotcha, bitch.


CKAinRedStateUSA said...

How about the "O'Baden" ticket?

As for your statement -- "As for how to attack the Obama-Biden ticket, I wish I had some suggestions" -- respectfully, none needed.

Their records and statements provide a target-rich supply of legitimate and serious ways to attack them.

And defeat them.

Which will happen, should the Demockacrats actually nominate Barack/Barry SoetorObamaDunham.

Barb Miller said...

As always it's right on. A Yen to his Yang. They compliment each other.Now Ali if I could convince you to do a column on the irresponsible of today's media, I think we could change the world.