Biden Not-So-Bad a Pick Governmentally; Not-so-good a Pick Politically

Sen. Obama Picks Sen. Biden

Richard E. Vatz

The choice of the vice-presidential nominee in national elections is critical, notwithstanding the large number if experts who naïvely claim that it matters little or not at all who is nominated. This latter perception is fed by those who believe that if polls don’t pick up an effect, it doesn’t exist. This is simply incorrect. People process information about a ticket, and whether they know it or not, such information significantly affects their presidential choice.

On Barack Obama’s Democratic Vice-Presidential nomination choice of Sen. Joe Biden, a few initial thoughts:

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1. Sen. Biden fulfills some significant gaps in a ticket headed by a man who less than 4 years ago was a member of the Illinois State Senate.

2. Sen. Biden is intelligent and knowledgeable on matters of foreign policy and sports significant experience as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

3. Politically, he could be a help in Obama’s securing of Pennsylvania wherein Sen. Biden was born.

4. Sen. Biden’s aborted presidential campaign 20 years ago was torpedoed by a number of problems, not insignificantly including his plagiarizing parts of a speech by Britain’s Labour Party’s Neil Kinnock and subsequent plagiarizing at Syracuse Law School. In addition he significantly exaggerated other academic accomplishments.
The significance of these 20 year-old revelations is that
when a person is caught substantially misrepresenting
his accomplishments, there are usually many, many more
misrepresentations that can and will be caught in the
internet era. Biden never denied the facts of such
discoveries, only their significance.

5. A lot of people are put off by Biden’s loquaciousness. I think this will hurt him with no one who otherwise finds him acceptable. Bill Clinton’s 1988 speech at the Democratic National Convention may have been the most boring, extended speech of the last 50 years by a major figure. I don’t recall how he did in his election attempt in 1992.

6. The Democratic ticket comprises two senators — not good for administrative experience or electoral success.

7. I predicted in an earlier post that the Hobson’s choice regarding Hillary Clinton would likely lose this election for Obama – choose Hillary and lose those who find her off-putting, or ignore her and lose the intensity of a significant minority of those who voted for her.

All in all, Sen. Biden is a generally acceptable choice for governing the country; there are certainly worse who were in the running. The view here is that the Hippocratic oath for Vice Presidential nominees – first, do no harm — may well have been violated in the political dimension.

Prediction here: if McCain chooses Mitt Romney, it’s a Republican victory for president in 2008.

Dr. Vatz is professor of political rhetoric at Towson University

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