Inside Politics: Joe Biden says he’s good at being country’s No. 2

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Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. gave himself a little pat on the back today during a campaign stop in Muscatine, Iowa.

He may not have been much of a presidential candidate — he lost both times he ran in 2007 and 1988 — but he’s a heck of a No. 2.

“You know, there’s only a few people, including Iowans, who have been to all 99 counties,” he told a group of women during a stop at a farmers’ market. “I’m one of them. All you got to do is run for president and you’ll be in all 99 counties.”

But, he admitted to having a hard time collecting votes during all of that stumping.

“I spent 120 days in Iowa,” he said, referring to his effort to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007 before dropping out Jan. 3, 2008. “You saw how effective I am. You know what I mean? But I’m a good vice president.”

CAMPAIGN

Trump hints that Romney team may be lacking

One-time possible presidential candidate Donald Trump had some harsh words for President Obama on Monday morning, but he didn’t hold back on Mitt Romney either, saying that given Mr. Obama’s performance on the economy and foreign policy, Republicans should be winning “in a landslide.”

“The Republicans are going to have to run much tougher and much harder — they cannot be put on the defensive,” Mr. Trump said on “Fox and Friends.” “You know, you have to say one thing about Obama — he’s got an amazing team of people around him.”

So, by that logic, are Mr. Romney’s people lacking?

“It’s too early to say,” Mr. Trump said. “All I know is this: The economy is horrible, he’s the worst president ever on foreign policy, everything is going bad, and he’s our ‘unlucky president.’ He’s unlucky for our country. Everything is turning bad for our country.”

CAMPAIGN

Warren overtakes Brown in Massachusetts Senate race

Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has made up serious ground and taken the lead in her race against incumbent Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown, according to two recent polls.

The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling released a poll Monday that shows Mrs. Warren with support from 48 percent of likely voters, compared with 46 percent for Mr. Brown. A poll last month by the firm showed Mr. Brown with a 5-point lead.

A Western New England University poll released Sunday shows Mrs. Warren leading 50 percent to 44 percent among likely voters.

The polls seem to indicate a major surge in support for Mrs. Warren as she hopes to unseat the moderate Republican senator, whom she narrowly trailed in most polls in recent months.

CAMPAIGN

Eastwood: Obama seems ‘very charming to me’

Legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood found himself in the headlines after the final night of the Republican National Convention last month for his impromptu performance in which he debated an invisible President Obama supposedly sitting in an empty chair next to him.

Turns out, the 83-year-old actually doesn’t harbor the same ill will against Mr. Obama as many of the president’s detractors.

When informed that Mr. Obama said he’s still a big fan of his, Mr. Eastwood quipped, “Well, that’s his bad judgment.”

“Actually, he seems very charming to me,” Mr. Eastwood quickly added in an interview broadcast Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

WHITE HOUSE

Obama reassures U.S. diplomats in wake of riots

The White House says President Obama has called officials at U.S. diplomatic facilities in North Africa and the Middle East to reassure them that their security is a top priority for the U.S. government.

Mr. Obama called officials working in Sudan, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen in the wake of violent protests that broke out in response to a low-budget movie that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed last week, and riots continue throughout the region.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Mr. Obama called U.S. missions over the weekend to “let those diplomats know that he was thinking about them, that their safety remains a top priority” even as he continues campaigning for re-election.

PENTAGON

Substance abuse among troops called a ‘crisis’

A new study says that substance abuse among troops has become a “public health crisis” and that Pentagon methods for dealing with it are outdated.

The study by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, says about 20 percent of active duty service members reported they drank heavily in 2008, the last year for which data are available. Binge-drinking rose to 47 percent in 2008 from 35 percent in 1998.

The study says new methods are needed to help troops. Those include better-trained counselors and more outpatient care as opposed to relying so heavily on hospitalizations and residential programs.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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