25 August 2008

VP pick Biden under fire

So Obama has chosen Senator Joe Biden of Delaware as his running mate. Not a huge surprise as he was high on the shortlist from the start. His state is one of the smallest in terms of the electoral college, so he won't help bring in a large conservative or toss-up state, but there is mixed evidence historically that vice-presidential candidates deliver their states for candidates anyway.

Generally, this is an excellent choice, he has almost 40 years of experience in the Senate which will help to silence the criticism of Obama as unprepared to be president. He is one of the country's leading experts on foreign affairs and defence issues, having served as chairman and a member of the Senate foreign relations committee for many years. He is older, white and a centrist in the party, and should help to reassure the more reactionary members of the electroate who are finding it hard to commit to Obama.

However, this is US presidential politics and the Republican's will be preparing to sling as much mud at him as possible and see what sticks. Here's a quick guide to the attacks we can expect on the Senator from Delaware:

  • One of his key strengths, 36 years in the Senate, could be used against him. Presidential elections always love mavericks (like McCain) and Washington outsiders (like Reagan, Clinton, Bush jr) so the Republican camp will no doubt use that with glee.
  • On the same theme, he was elected very young at age 30, and had a few years in law practice before that. The right will ask, where's his experience of the real world?
  • Again, he is old enough to have served in Vietnam, but didn't. He failed the medical due to asthma, but no doubt there will be a whispering campaign about his lack of war service.
  • He has form in presidential politics that may work against him. He ended his 1988 White House bid due to accusations of plagiarism in speeches, and confusion over his performance at law school. Biden allegedly sugested John McCain as running mate for John Kerry in 2004. His performance in the Iowa 2008 primary was woeful, and he withdrew early.
  • He will need to abandon his campaign for Senate re-election in Delaware this year, or he will face accusations that he isn't confident of Obama's victory.
  • And of course he is a northern Democrat, like Obama, which is bound to rile the South in the usual way.

So the Obama-Biden 2008 campaign will have to be on their guard, but this is nothing new for Democratic presidential candidates. Their main aim should be to ensure that their campaign isn't attacked and their candidate vilified in the same way that John Kerry was in 2004. Overall, Biden is an excellent candidates, but many excellent candidates have been victims of the Republican attack machine in recent history, and that is unlikely to change this year.

No comments: