I have long been on record in support of Hillary Clinton for v.p., but it is clear that was never in the offing. Clinton aside, Joe Biden was the best possible pick for Senator Obama. Here's why:
The fighting in Georgia underscored the need to bring some foreign policy experience to the ticket. No one does that better than Biden. Absent the situation in Georgia, Virginia Governor Kaine might have been the pick--in effect Vladimir Putin vetoed him.
It's critical that the veep be willing and able to take an axe or at least an icepick to the presidential candidate of the other party. Joe Biden has shown both the willingness and the skill throughout his career to do just that--in the end it might have been Evan Bayh's reluctance to serve as an attack dog that eliminated him.
Senator Obama also needs to improve his performance with lunch bucket and working class Democrats. Biden has spent his career appealing to those voters--he literally commutes on the train every day to work--and is very good at rhetorically delivering the old-time Democratic religion.
He won't automatically bring along disaffected Hillary voters, especially those who are older women. But no one was going to do that besides Hillary anyway--and with his working class roots, Biden gives you a better chance than most. He can also be long-winded, self-referential, and occasionally gaffe-prone. Well, no one is perfect, but I'd bet that Biden is capable of disciplining himself now that he is on the big stage he has sought for a very long time.
It gives an opening to the McCain campaign to pick a woman or make an out-of-the-box selection.
The Obama campaign clearly made the decision that they did not need their veep pick to reinforce their change message, and that was a smart move. Obama brings plenty of change and excitement on his own. What he needed--and what he got in Biden--is someone who shores up some of his weaknesses.
Howard Wolfson was Hillary Clinton’s communications director. He blogs at Gotham Acme.