Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

The Biden pick: Analysis

Posted by sanityinjection on August 25, 2008

My apologies to those of you who came here over the weekend looking for my reax to Senator Obama’s choice of Senator Joe Biden as his running mate. I wanted to take a little time to think about it and hear what the chattering classes were saying on the Sunday talk shows.

Let me summarize the pros and cons of this pick for Obama and the Democrats.


  • Experience – Biden’s long career of public service brings a lifetime of experience to the ticket.
  • Foreign policy – Biden brings the street cred in foreign affairs that Obama lacks.
  • Stature – Biden is a fairly well-known figure, widely seen as highly intelligent and arguably capable of assuming the Presidency if necessary. However, he’s not going to outshine the nominee the way a Hillary Clinton might have.
  • Demographics – Biden is a blue-collar Catholic and one of the least affluent members of the Senate, could help with Hillary Clinton/lunchpail type voters and offset perception of Obama as elitist
  • Role player – Biden is very well equipped for the traditional “attack dog” role, as someone who has clearly relished partisan quips throughout his career.


  • Off message – Biden is a consummate Washington insider and an old white guy joining a campaign that claims to be about revolutionary change. Also, Biden voted for the war in Iraq which Obama has consistently said should have been opposed from the start.
  • Experience – Biden’s loud and long insistence on the need to partition Iraq has called his foreign policy experience into question.  And neither Biden nor Obama has any executive experience.
  • Foot-in-mouth disease: Biden has a history of unfortunate statements, like his ethnic sterotype of convenience store owners and his faint praise of Obama as a black man who is “articulate and clean”. Arguably Biden fails the “do no harm” test.
  • No pizazz – It is hard to imagine anyone who was lukewarm about Obama before suddenly being excited about the ticket because of the addition of Biden, or any increase in voter registration or turnout. Pissed-off Hillary-loving feminists will not be charmed by Biden.
  • No coattails – Biden is from Delaware, a tiny state Obama already had locked up. The campaign is trying to present Biden as being from Pennsylvania, where he grew up, but he’s unlikely to sway many votes there.

Putting all this together, it comes out rather even. I don’t think Obama has helped himself significantly with this pick, but neither is it a disaster. The pick does fulfill the criteria Obama himself laid out for his running mate. He wanted someone who is ready and capable of being President, someone who will help him pursue a liberal reform agenda, and someone who won’t be afraid to disagree with him.

Perhaps the best aspect of this pick for Obama is the difficulties it creates for his opponent, John McCain, who now has about four days to choose his own running mate. Biden’s blue-collar background argues against picking Romney and thereby losing credibility on casting the Democrats as overprivileged elitists. However, Biden’s intelligence, experience, and aggressive politicking might also argue against picking Pawlenty, who might measure up poorly against Biden in a debate. Shockingly, conservative icon Bill Kristol is now pushing for Lieberman as the pick as a counterweight to Biden:

Kristol makes some good points, but I don’t know that I’m convinced that McCain’s personal friendship with Lieberman is enough to outweigh all the policy areas on which Lieberman agrees more with Obama than with McCain. In other words, how does Lieberman stand up in a debate and argue against the very policies he was arguing for just 8 years ago? No, I can’t see it.

I still think former Congressman John Kasich is the ideal pick for McCain, but he doesn’t seem to be on the radar screen. McCain needs to avoid the trap of trying to pick someone with the same stature as Biden – he, McCain, has the stature all by himself. He also needs to remember that losing a vice-presidential debate is not the end of the world, as Dan Quayle proved in 1988. McCain still needs to placate the conservatives, and he should choose someone with a calm, easy demeanor to balance his own fiery temperament. Finally, by choosing a governor with executive experience, he can really score points against a ticket with two career legislators on it. So I think Pawlenty is still the pick for McCain.


4 Responses to “The Biden pick: Analysis”

  1. Ted said

    Despite the Dems and the allied main stream media’s desperation to see Romney as McCain’s Veep, Mitt is clearly out, with (1) Obama doubling down on the class warfare theme (McCain’s 7 houses) and (2) McCain doubling down with ads showing the hypocrisy of Biden attacking Obama in the primaries — Romney did way more than that contra McCain.

    This leaves only Govs Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty. Pro-abortion Ridge and Dem-Lieberman were never real considerations, despite relentless media goading. Pawlenty’s lackluster TV performances, coupled with Palin pizzazz, the primacy of oil drilling and the ticked off women/Hillary voters, does now portend a McCain/Palin checkmate on the Dems. This is so albeit the Dems and liberal media dare not mention Palin’s name, that is, everyone but…..

    And if there’s any question as to Palin being uniquely positioned and able to more than nullify Biden in debate, see the excellent discussion at

    Team McCain, well done!!!

  2. sanityinjection said

    Ted, we’ll know soon enough if you’re right about Palin. I see her in the same light as Bobby Jindal – great potential as a future candidate, but still too green for the national stage. I think selecting Palin would undercut McCain’s primary argument about trusting in the wisdom of experience – the idea of Palin assuming the Presidency should anything happen to McCain doesn’t fill one with confidence. That’s why I doubt she’ll be the pick. But she would bring at least some executive experience as well as an “outsider” image that would enhance McCain’s “maverick” image. Not to mention the obvious appeal as a female candidate to the legions of Hillary supporters. Hmmm…maybe you are on to something, but I think it would be a pick that is made for political purposes rather than with an eye toward good government, a criticism I can’t make of Obama’s pick of Biden. McCain’s whole career (at least according to him) is about choosing good government over political considerations. So in that sense, picking Palin would be a violation of McCain’s whole philosophy of public service.

  3. Sister Benedict said

    Palin is too green for the national stage? I had to read that twice. I misread it and thought you said “Obama is too green for the national stage”. Sorry…

  4. sanityinjection said

    Apparently,’s Jeanne Cummings reads my blog:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: