- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2008

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Sen. Barack Obama returned Saturday to the spot where he began his improbably presidential run to publicly present his newly picked running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden of Delaware, introducing him as a man with “a distinguished record and a fundamental decency” who will help lead the country in a new direction.

“Joe Biden is that rare mix,” the Illinois Democrat said. “For decades, he has brought change to Washington, but Washington hasn’t changed him. He’s an expert on foreign policy whose heart and values are rooted firmly in the middle class.”

He touted Mr. Biden’s blue-collar upbrigning in Irish Catholic family in Scranton, Pa., a narrative that will be repeated regulary as the campaign reaches out to voters in the swing state of Pennsylvania and to Catholics and working-class voters who have been reluctant to back Mr. Obama.

The choice of Mr. Biden, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Senate and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, most notably added national security and Washington experience to the Democratic ticket but also underscored Republican criticism that Mr. Obama is untested and not ready for the presidency.

Mr. Obama of Illinois, addressing a crowd of thousands in front of the historic State House building where 19 months ago he announced his bid for president, said his running mate was “uniquely suited to be my partner as we work to put our country back on track.”

“Joe Biden is what so many others pretend to be: a statesman with sound judgment who doesn’t have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong,” Mr. Obama said. “Joe won’t just make a good vice president. He will make a great one.”

Mr. Biden, who as an early candidate for the presidential nomination criticized Mr. Obama’s lack of experience, said he had come to respect and admire Mr. Obama even as he lost faith in his longtime friend and colleague, Mr. McCain.

“Barack has the vision, and what you can’t forget […] he also has the courage, the courage to make this a better place,” Mr. Biden said, adding that Mr. Obama was a “clear-eyed pragmatist who will get the job done.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, I know I’m told I talk too colloquially, but there’s something about this guy,” he said, gesturing with his thumb to Mr. Obama, who was sitting behing him. “There’s something about Barack Obama that allows him to bring people together like no one I have worked with and seen. There’s something about Barack Obama that makes people understand if they make compromises they can make things better.”

Mr. Obama made the choice of Mr. Biden to add foreign policy muscle and help him shore up his presidential ticket.

Mr. Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee with 36 years of experience in Washington, was quickly added to the BarackObama.com home page early Saturday morning following the much-ballyhooed text message announcing the decision.

“Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3 p.m. ET” at BarackObama.com, the text stated, adding: “Spread the word.”

Republicans worked quickly to paint the selection as proving Mr. Obama of Illinois is not experienced enough to be president, and Sen. John McCain’s Republican rival put out a new ad to reinforce that point.

“What does Barack Obama’s running mate say about Barack Obama?” the ad asks,

The ad stars Mr. Biden telling a debate moderator during the Democratic primary that he would “stand by” a statement that his younger Senate colleague was not yet ready to be president.

It also includes the senator from Delaware praising Mr. McCain: “I would be honored to run with or against John McCain.”

Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden will appear together for the first time Saturday afternoon in Springfield, Illinois, where the Democrat announced his candidacy in February 2007.

Some Democrats groaned that the Biden pick opens them up to the possibility of damaging verbal gaffes, but others cheered the decision as helping Mr. Obama attract working-class voters and Catholics.

The new Obama homepage showed the two men smiling next to one another and solicited donations for the Nov. 4 election.

The new Web site declared, “Barack has chosen Joe Biden to be his running mate. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the leaders who will bring the change our country needs. But they can’t do it alone. Show your support for the Obama-Biden ticket by making a donation today.”

It also asked voters to write Mr. Biden a welcome note.

Republicans also are expected to seize on Mr. Biden’s 1988 presidential bid, which ended when his Democratic opponents provided reporters with a video tape that in one instance he had quoted British politician Neil Kinnock without attribution.

He had been using Kinnock quotes on the trail for months, with citation.

After he dropped out of the race, Mr. Biden suffered a brain aneurysm that nearly killed him, and he and his wife Jill agreed perhaps it was better he was not still seeking the presidency.

His 2008 bid ended in early January when he placed fifth in the Iowa caucus.

Mr. Biden got the call from Mr. Obama on Thursday night with the offer of the No. 2 spot on the ticket.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden plan to part ways after the Springfield rally and not hit the campaign trail as a team until after next week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Mr. Obama plans to fly home to Chicago for the night before campaigning Sunday in Wisconsin. Mr. Biden is scheduled to fly back to his home in Wilmington, Del., later Saturday.

His next stop is Denver to boost the ticket during the convention, where Mr. Obama is expected to arrive Wednesday and accept the nomination Thursday.

Mr. Biden is slated to address the convention Wednesday.

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