Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has chosen Delaware Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate, according to a text message sent to supporters at 3 a.m. on Saturday (August 23) morning and a message posted on Obama’s campaign Web site.
“Joe Biden brings extensive foreign policy experience, an impressive record of collaborating across party lines and a direct approach to getting the job done,” read the message about one of the best kept secrets in Washington until the news leaked out unexpectedly two hours before the text went out. “We have our team, but we also have our work cut out for us. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the leaders who will bring the change our country needs.”
Most expected to receive the news sometime later Saturday morning, before the two running mates’ scheduled appearance at a rally in Springfield, Illinois, the site where Obama kicked off his bid for the presidency more than 19 months ago. Biden will be taking the stage at the Democratic National Convention next week as part of a history-making ticket looking to take on Republican Senator John McCain and his soon-to-be-announced running mate in November.
The 65-year-old Biden has long been considered a top contender for a job. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, with close to six terms in the Senate under his belt, Biden has experience Obama lacks in foreign policy and defense issues. He’s also a Catholic with a blue-collar background, which could help Obama with that demographic.
On the other hand, the Washington veteran (who ran for president himself in 1988 and 2008) represents a state that is already in Obama’s column, and he has a history of putting his foot in his mouth. On the campaign trail earlier this year, Biden received flak for calling Obama “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” He quickly apologized for the statement.
In the days leading up to the announcement the speculation ramped up, with every media outlet digging for every kernel of information that might suggest who Obama was going to choose, staking out those on the short list and practically begging them for any hints. As of earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the short list had gotten down to a trio of potential VPs that included Biden, Indiana’s Senator Evan Bayh and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.
As the time ticked down on Obama’s announcement, supporters of the senator’s one-time rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton, began to lose hope that Obama would choose the former first lady, even as the buzz about her joining the ticket picked up again. Fox News even reported on Friday that there was a move afoot by some delegates to force Clinton onto the ticket. Another long-shot candidate, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, was also said to be in the running. On Friday, a true dark-horse candidate emerged in Texas Representative Chet Edwards, a big supporter of veterans’ issues who confirmed to CNN that he had been vetted by the campaign.
For a time, former Senator John Edwards was also rumored to be on the list, but the 2004 Democratic VP nominee’s second chance at the #2 slot, or a potential spot in an Obama cabinet, imploded when he recently admitted to an extramarital affair.
The Times had predicted that Obama would likely choose a “relatively safe” running mate to avoid taking any chances with a selection that might change voters’ minds on the candidate or alienate a significant portion of his base. Then again, with his lead over McCain slipping away over the past few weeks, Obama was in need of a buzz-worthy pick that could re-energize the campaign.
Obama reached his final decision while on his recent vacation in Hawaii in what was an “unexpectedly intense process” that the paper said was squeezed into a shorter period to avoid actively vetting potential running mates’ backgrounds before Clinton quit the race in June. The candidate confirmed on Thursday that he had made his decision but wasn’t ready to reveal it yet.
Obama was faced with the decision of filling out the ticket with someone who could make up for his perceived lack of experience, someone who would reinforce his message of change, a running mate who could help him win an important toss-up state or a candidate who could boost his appeal to white, working class voters, whom he had trouble reaching in some states during the primaries.
Biden fits some of those categories, though his long tenure in the Senate and some harsh criticism of Obama earlier in the campaign quickly turned into fodder for the McCain camp shortly after the pick was announced.
“There has been no harsher critic of Barack Obama’s lack of experience than Joe Biden,” McCain spokesman Ben Porritt said in a written statement, according to CNN. “Biden has denounced Barack Obama’s poor foreign policy judgment and has strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quickly realizing — that Barack Obama is not ready to be president.”
Biden frequently raised questions about Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience during the primaries. “I think he can be ready, but right now, I don’t believe he is,” Biden said during one debate. “The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.”
McCain will also more than likely bring up the fact that Biden dropped out of the 1988 Democratic presidential race after charges that he plagiarized a stump speech.
Despite all the attention, there’s one thing political pundits typically agree on: While the hoopla surrounding the VP pick always provide a momentary bump in the polls, it rarely has much of an impact on winning states or regions of the country come November.
Don’t worry about missing out on the action: MTV News and our Street Team ’08 will be on the ground at both conventions to sort through all the speeches, streamers and ceremony to find the information you need to choose our next president. Head to Choose or Lose for nonstop coverage of the 2008 presidential election. And after history is made in Denver, MTV News will help you make sense of it all in “Obama Decoded,” premiering Friday, August 29 at 7:30.
[This story was originally published at 2:35 am E.T. on 8.23.2008]