Obama And Biden Launch First Campaign Tour
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen. Earlier this year, they were rivals. Now, they're running mates. Senator Barack Obama has selected Delaware Senator Joe Biden to stand with him at the Democratic Convention in Denver this coming week. The two men appeared together for the first time as a ticket yesterday in the Illinois capital of Springfield. NPR's Don Gonyea was there.
DON GONYEA: For weeks, speculation had been building. Who would be Senator Obama's running mate? Names flew. There were short lists, long shots. In recent weeks, there were appearances with possible VPs in Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico. But yesterday in Springfield was no tease.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Presidential Candidate, Democrat): Today, I have come back to Springfield to tell you that I found that leader.
(Soundbite of crowd applause)
Sen. OBAMA: A man with a distinguished record. A man with fundamental decency. And that man is Joe Biden.
GONYEA: Senator Obama stood on a stage in front of the old state capital in Springfield. This was the exact spot where he first announced his bid for the White House in early 2007. The big reason Obama selected Biden is experience, the 65-year-old Delaware senator's three and a half decades in the Senate and his long foreign policy resume as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sen. OBAMA: Over the last eight years, he has been a powerful critic of the catastrophic Bush-McCain foreign policy.
(Soundbite of crowd applause)
Sen. OBAMA: And a voice - and a voice for a new direction that takes the fight to the terrorists and ends the war in Iraq responsibly.
GONYEA: There was one slight slip-up yesterday when Obama introduced Biden as the next president of the United States. After a quick correction, Biden appeared, jogging along the runway, greeting his new running mate. Both men were in short sleeves on a hot, sunny day. They waved to the crowd of 35,000.
Earlier this year, when Biden was still hoping to be president, he said Obama was too inexperienced. Here's what Biden says now.
Senator JOE BIDEN (Democrat, Delaware): No one knows better than I do. The presidential campaigns are crucibles in which you're tested and challenged every single day. And over the past 18 months, I've watched Barack meet those challenges with judgment, intelligence and steel in his spine.
GONYEA: And Joe Biden seemed ready to take on a basic role that nearly all vice-presidential nominees play: attacking the opposition. There was a reference to how many houses Republican John McCain owns, a question McCain himself had trouble answering last week. Then there was this:
Sen. BIDEN: I'll say straight up to you, John McCain and the press know this, he's genuinely a friend of mine. I've known John for 35 years.
GONYEA: And he praised McCain's courage and long service to the country.
Sen. BIDEN: Harsh truth is, ladies and gentlemen, you can't change America when you boast, and these are John's words, quote, "The most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement in support of President Bush."
(Soundbite of crowd booing)
Sen. BIDEN: Ladies and gentlemen, that's what he said. You can't change America when you supported George Bush's policies 95 percent of the time.
GONYEA: Watching all of these from half a block away was Pam Brusant(ph), a sales and marketing coordinator.
Ms. PAM BRUSANT: I was interested in Biden early on before everybody started dropping by the wayside, and he's got longevity in the Senate and he's got the international background and I think he's a good man.
GONYEA: Meanwhile, 64-year-old Lynn Davis(ph) has been an Obama supporter from the beginning, but she wanted someone else to run with him.
Ms. LYNN DAVIS: I was absolutely sure it was going to be Hillary. It would be a big surprise and it would draw her supporters in and that could be a really neat thing to have a woman and a black person.
GONYEA: Indeed, the Biden pick will be judged on how much he helps heal the wounds of the primary war between Obama and Senator Clinton. If Senator Biden can appeal to the voters who preferred Clinton, he could make all the difference. Don Gonyea, NPR News.