The Real Significance of the Biden Pick
Forget what you’ve been reading about “experience.” Forget about foreign policy. Forget about working-class. Forget about Catholic. Those themes are just a self-justifying narrative from the Obama campaign meant to buy a few good news cycles before Denver. The fact is, come November, voters don’t really care who the VP is when they vote for a President.
But they do hear what he says. The real reason Biden got the nod tonight is because Obama needs a pit-bull, and Joe Biden is ready to bark. This is someone who will, as my father put it rather scatologically, “Shove it up their ___.”
Sort of like this:
And that’s what Obama needs. Consider: One of the most ludicrous aspects of American politics in the last generation is how Republican politicians in Washington—who live in perfect gilded opulence, and who devote their professional lives to servicing the rich—somehow became the party of the people. And Democrats, whose legislative agenda revolves around helping the middle-class, turned into effete elites.
For most of this summer, Obama thought he was immune to this narrative. (In the reality-based community, it’s hard to fathom how the African-American son of a single mother who worked his way through school can be an ‘elite.’) He ignored the GOP attacks on his character, went on his “world citizen” tour, and left McCain untouched.
But as the polls suddenly tightened in the last few weeks, the Obama campaign realized it was in a dogfight, and they needed to shoot back. Their apoplectic (and successful) reaction to McCain’s fuzzy memory about his houses shows they’ve figured this out (even as they let other McCain gaffes slide by all summer). The Joe Biden pick is part-and-parcel with this new strategy. He has the manner and elocution to shred Republican myths: that McCain has demonstrated foreign policy judgment, that he’s a “maverick,” that he cares about working-class Americans.
Tell Hillary Clinton that “rich” is defined as making over $5 million a year, and you’ll get a five-minute lecture on what she learned in the Senate and as first lady. Tell Evan Bayh and he’ll calmly talk about his Indiana boyhood. Tell Tim Kaine and…well, who? But tell Joe Biden and you’ll get the kind of look he delivers in the last second of this video:
And that’s the kind of thing (the ONLY kind of thing) that a VP can do that will actually resonate with voters.
To be sure, you won’t see the fangs immediately. The start of the DNC in Denver and the meme about Biden’s verbal gaffes means it’s going to be all scripted smiles and a short leash for the first few weeks.
But starting on about September 15 I'd guess, Biden will come out swinging. If I had to predict, I’d say the Obama campaign is basically going to purchase a permanent sleeping car on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited corridor, and Biden’s going to spend the entire fall traveling between Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburg, and Philadelphia, reminding out-of-work and underemployed Americans that John McCain’s entire solution to their woes is…to cut taxes on Mitt Romney.
The best historical analogy for all this is Eisenhower’s choice of Richard Nixon in 1952. Like Obama, Eisenhower was a genial, sunny guy trying to end a long period of dominance by the opposing party—but unable to attack on his own because of his disposition.
Despite despising him personally, Ike put Nixon on the ticket to go after the Democrats and do his dirty work—something Nixon relished and Ike detested.
I see Obama’s pick of Biden in the same light—the guy to attack the GOP while Obama floats above it all with his promise of a “different kind of politics.” It’s a great 1-2 combination. And it means, thankfully, Obama finally figured out how to throw a punch—or at least hire someone else who could.