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August 23, 2008


News and Commentary by Don Rose

It's finally official: Barack Obama has tapped veteran Senate colleague Joe Biden to be his Vice Presidential running mate.

The choice brings a wealth of experience, especially in foreign policy, an area which some feel is a weakness for Obama. Biden's selection also gives further evidence that this is indeed The Year of the Senator. Two Senators now sit atop the Democratic party ticket, another Senator sits atop the GOP ticket, and a fourth Senator (Hillary Clinton) came in a very close second in the Demo race -- and still may be a powerful force at the upcoming convention in "Dem-ver", given her huge block of delegates (a mere 300 or so behind the presumptive Democratic nominee).

My only beef with Biden is the way he gave misdirections leading up to Obama's official announcement. If Joe did know he was a go, why tell the press "I'm not the guy"? Can't a veteran politician give vague comments that sound definitive yet leave the door open without being untrue? Like, "Look you guys, I am not running for Vice President." Technically that's true. No one actually runs for Veep anymore, they get appointed/anointed (unlike back in the day, when the VP used to be the guy who came in second in the general election, even if the Prez and V.Prez were from different parties -- yep, this was way way back in the day).

Speaking of back in the day, the election of 2008 is becoming more and more like the election of 1960. As with Obama-McCain, the Kennedy-Nixon battle of 1960 was in large part over experience. There are other similarities between Barack and Jack, too. For starters, the last 3 letters in their first names. Okay, that was a stretch. But seriously, parallels abound. When he ran for Prez, JFK was, like Obama, a young, thin, handsome Senator with two kids who raised doubts in many voters' minds about experience, and toughness when dealing with enemy nations (USSR/Cuba for JFK, Iraq/Iran for Obama). Another striking similarity: each triggered issues about religion. For Kennedy, it was his being a Roman Catholic and would he be beholden to the Pope over the interests of US citizens. For Obama, as that recent sold-out New Yorker cover tried to satirize, it is those lingering false allegations about him being Muslim, not Christian.

Just as Kennedy did by picking Lyndon Johnson, Obama got pragmatic for his Democratic mate and chose a fellow Senator, one with more experience, to be Veep. And for his acceptance speech, Obama opted to deliver it in a stadium. Who was the last candidate to accept his party's nomination in a stadium? You guessed it: JFK. So... if 2008 is indeed a rerun of 1960, then Obama will win in an extremely close race, and Joe is just Biden time till he inevitably becomes President. You heard it here first.

Some other interesting notes, from USA TODAY's coverage of the Biden VP pick:

"Like Obama, Biden burst onto the political scene as a wunderkind: he was elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 29. He attained the constitutional age of 30 required for senators before his swearing-in."

"Biden is running for re-election for his eighth Senate term this year, but Delaware law will allow him to seek both his Senate seat and the vice-presidency."

"The Obama campaign used excitement over the vice presidential announcement to create an elaborate cellphone number harvesting system, telling supporters they could be among the 'first to know' if they sent a text message from their portable phones to the campaign. But the text message went out in the wee hours of Saturday morning, well after many news outlets named Biden as the running mate late Friday — proving that the political rumor mill remains more efficient than the high-tech information highway."

While this last point may indeed be true, you gotta give huge kudos to the politicos in Obama's camp for dreaming up the whole text-the-Veep idea. First, it further bolsters Obama's brand as "man of the future" (e.g., new technologies -- well, at least newfangled to many voters in McCain's demographic) -- and it also gives Barack a huge base of cell phones to text GO VOTE reminders to come November. Or perhaps they'll use each of those cell numbers to text a $5 gas voucher on Election Day; that would really seal the deal. Too techie? Then just mail me 20 quarters. Now that would be change I can believe in.