Sen. Joe Biden Wednesday night solidified his role as the Democratic ticket’s attack dog against John McCain while also identifying himself with the core group of blue-collar voters Obama has had trouble reaching.
His speech ended with an even more dramatic moment — the first appearance of Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention, which stirred the crowd into a wild ovation while the two embraced.
The Scranton, Pa. native invoked his solid middle-class roots and tied them to Obama, acknowledging that the two “took very different journeys” to the nomination, “but we share a common story.”
Obama, Biden said, “is the great American story.”
Biden’s speech marked a new direction in a convention that has been dominated by reports of tension among delegates who supported Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
Hillary Clinton gave what many believe was the best speech of her career Tuesday night. On Wednesday, she stopped the roll call and asked that Obama be nominated by acclamation.
Biden refocused the convention on the Democratic ticket, attacking McCain over foreign policy issues, an area of expertise for the Delaware senator who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“As we gather here tonight, our country is less secure and more isolated than at any time in recent history,” Biden said. “The Bush-McCain foreign policy has dug us into a very deep hole, with very few friends to help us climb out. Should we trust John McCain’s judgment when he says there can be no timelines to draw down our troops from Iraq, that we must stay indefinitely? Or should we listen to Barack Obama, who says shift responsibility to the Iraqis and set a time to bring our combat troops home?”
Biden was introduced by his son, Beau, who recounted one of the more compelling aspects of his father’s history, the death of Biden’s wife and daughter just days before he was to be sworn in as a 30-year-old United States Senator.
“So he was sworn in, in the hospital, at my bedside,” Beau Biden said. “As a single parent he decided to be there to put us to bed, to be there when we woke from a bad dream, to make us breakfast, so he would travel to and from Washington, four hours a day.”
Barack Obama’s selection of Biden as his running mate has done nothing so far to improve his poll numbers. A Gallup poll of voters in the three days following the Biden announcement showed McCain ahead of Obama, 46 percent to 44 percent. A Rasmussen poll on Wednesday showed McCain with a one-point advantage.
Political analysts were not surprised by the numbers, saying Biden was not the kind of candidate who would instantly fire up voters.
But what he lacks in attention-grabbing style, Biden, 65, makes up for with substance, which critics claim is missing from Obama’s soaring rhetoric.
“They need to translate their lofty dreams into terms everyone can understand,” said Rep. John Spratt, of South Carolina, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee. “Biden becomes the detail guy who talks about job creation.”