The last round of applause for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton had faded Tuesday night when Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden stepped onstage at the Democratic National Convention for a mini-rehearsal. He was getting acquainted with the Pepsi Center, the Denver arena where he will accept the Democrats' vice presidential nod Wednesday night.
Some in the audience wanted to see Clinton in that role — if not at the top of their party's ticket. And Biden himself says that even though he's used to being a "one-man band," he is excited about the opportunity to play second fiddle to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Biden made an appeal for women's votes on Tuesday, during a surprise appearance at an economic roundtable hosted by Michelle Obama.
"He'll be the only man up here today. But he's famous for being completely at home wherever he goes. I'm delighted to introduce senator and future vice president Joe Biden," she said.
The invited guests, who were nearly all women, heard that Biden knows how challenging it is to balance work and family. He spent time as a single father after his first wife died, and he still commutes home from Washington, D.C., to Delaware each night.
Biden spoke briefly at the roundtable before yielding to four female governors. "I know my role," he said. "In my house — and this is not hyperbole; it's a fact — I've been surrounded my whole life by very strong, strong women."
Biden listened as the governors spoke. Then, he heard from four women who stand to benefit from Obama's economic, educational and health care initiatives.
Sitting in the audience, Donna Hilton of Denver was impressed. "I've always loved Joe Biden. I think he's a bit of an attack dog," Hilton said. "But I love that from him. I already see him firing things up in this party. I'm completely looking forward to him, too. I was overjoyed to see him take the stage today."
"Attack dog" is a traditional role for running mates, and Biden has been playing it already. He warned Tuesday that a Republican victory in November would mean more tax cuts for the wealthy in lieu of universal health care and a further rightward tilt of the Supreme Court.
"It's not merely a woman's right to choose that's at stake," he said. "It's whether or not you are going to be able to have a fair shot at a fair wage. It's whether or not you are going to be able to demand that you are treated equally in every aspect of your life. The country needs Barack Obama as president."
Biden, whose own White House bid ended early this year, said that Obama has tapped into something big, a fact he realized even when he was Obama's opponent.
"He's going to make you proud," Biden said. "And I am honored to be part of making sure, helping to make sure, I hope, that the first African American — the first guy who looks at things from a perspective like no one I've worked with, and I've been around a long time — gets to be president of the United States. Because he's not only going to transform the country; he's going to transform the world."
As for himself, Biden said, he's just glad to be along for the trip.