Tales from the Trail

Obama would have fit right into the old neighborhood, Biden says

biden2.jpgSCRANTON, Pennsylvania – Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden told his boyhood companions that Barack Obama would have been one of their friends, if he had been around when they were growing up.

“This guy gets it,” Biden, 65, said of his 47-year-old running mate, who could become the first black U.S. president.

Biden made the comments on a campaign visit to his childhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a blue collar city in a state central to his and Obama’s run for the White House. He described his old and predominately white neighborhood, known as Green Ridge, as a patriotic place where a person’s word was his bond and people stood up for what they believed in.

“I promise you. If Barack had been born here, he would have been our friend,” said Biden, a U.S. senator from Delaware since 1973. “He’d cover your back.”

Under blue skies and a bright sun, Biden sat in the shade of a big tree in his old backyard with his mother, Jean, 90, and scores of old friends and neighbors and supporters.  He quoted his late father, Joseph, a former car salesman, as saying, “the measure of success is not whether you get knocked down. It is how quickly you get up.”

McCain’s VP pick Palin draws boos when mentioning Hillary Clinton

WASHINGTON, Pa. – So maybe saying nice things about Hillary Clinton at a Republican rally isn’t such a good idea.
 
John McCain’s new vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, acknowledged the New York senator on Saturday when reflecting on her new found role as a national candidate.
 
The reaction from a large chunk of the audience: boos.
 
“I think as well today of two other women who came before me in national elections, and I can’t begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro back in 1984 and of course, Senator Hillary Clinton,” Palin said.
    
palin2.jpgBoo. Boo. Boo.
    
So much for trying to win over disaffected Clinton supporters. They, apparently, are not turning up to McCain-Palin rallies.
    
But no matter. The Alaska governor breezed on with a nod to her own historic bid, in Clinton’s wake.
    
“It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America,” she said. “But thankfully, as it turns out, the women of America aren’t finished yet, and the voters will shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”
    
The McCain campaign has made a concerted effort to win over Clinton backers who were upset at her loss in the Democratic primary to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
    
Palin’s presence on the ticket puts the mother of five in line to make history as the first female U.S. vice president if she and McCain beat Obama and his running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, in the Nov. 4 election.

Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (Palin campaigns in Washington)

Obama distances himself from campaign’s criticism of Palin

MONACA, Pennsylvania – Barack Obama distanced himself on Friday from his campaign’s initially critical statement about his rival John McCain’s choice of first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.
 
McCain, a 72-year-old veteran Republican senator from Arizona, picked a political unknown and self-described “hockey mom” who will become the first woman Republican vice presidential candidate.
 
When the surprise decision was announced, Obama was on the tarmac at a Denver airport preparing to depart for a bus tour in the industrial Midwest with his running mate, Joe Biden. The Democratic candidate had just made history by becoming the first black to accept a major-party presidential nomination.
 sarah-palin.jpg
His spokesman, Bill Burton, issued a statement suggesting Palin was too inexperienced to be vice president. “Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” it  said.
 
The McCain campaign quickly shot back that it was “audacious” for aides to the 47-year-old first-term Illinois senator to accuse Palin of inexperience.
 
Later in the day, Obama told reporters that the campaign’s early statement was “hair-trigger” and did not reflect his sentiments.
 
“I haven’t met her before. She seems like a compelling person. Obviously, a terrific story, personal story,” he said while touring a biodiesel plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
 
Obama said the choice of Palin was “one more indicator of this country moving forward” and a hit against the glass ceiling that has limited women’s advancement.
 
In a phone call to Palin, Obama told her he thought she would be a terrific candidate and wished her luck “but not too much luck,” according to Robert Gibbs, his senior adviser.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

- Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (McCain stands with his vice presidential running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Dayton, Ohio, Aug. 29, 2008)

Be careful when talking age with old Joe about young Barack

biden3.jpg DENVER — Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, 65, admits he’s getting a little touchy about the fact that he’s so much older than running mate Barack Obama , 47.

“If I hear one more time he was 11 years old when I went to the Senate, I’m going to smack somebody,” Biden joked, drawing laughter and applause at a breakfast meeting with convention delegates from Biden’s native state of Pennsylvania.

A smiling Biden, first elected to the Senate 35 years ago, noted there are just four senators in the 100-member chamber with more senority than him.

Inside the Tent: What would Toby Ziegler do?

Richard Schiff, the actor best known for playing Toby Ziegler on “The West Wing,” talks about vice presidential candidate Joe Biden. This video was shot by Reuters Inside the Tent contributor Mike Smith.

Inside the Tent has more than 40 delegates and other attendees in Denver and St. Paul, equipped with video cameras to capture the conventions from the ground up. Smith is not a Reuters employee and any opinions expressed are his own.

Click here for a full list of contributors at the Democratic National Convention. We’ll be moving to St. Paul for the Republican National Convention next week.

Biden pulls U.S. Supreme Court card in election fight

DENVER – Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden is urging voters to think about what type of justices they want on the U.S. Supreme Court before they decide who they want in the White House.rtr21p7h.jpg

Biden said U.S. President George W. Bush’s two conservative appointees — Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito — have pushed the nation’s highest court far to the right.

This, Biden charged, has threatened civil liberties and set back efforts to desegregate schools and obtain equal pay for women.

Biden loves pork

biden-pork.jpgVice presidential candidate Joe Biden, hailed as a voice for the working class, arrived in Denver shortly before the start of his Democratic Party convention on Monday and went straight to an outdoor barbecue for lunch.

“Five pulled pork sandwiches,” the white-haired, 65-year-old senator — accompanied by family members and crush of Secret Service agents — told the folks at Boney’s Smokehouse at the 16th Street Mall in the city’s downtown. Lunch was stuffed into a paper bag as the senator posed for pictures with a hundreds of passers-by who applauded and cheered the Delaware Democrat.

“Pennsylvania loves you,” yelled Michele Bortner, a Democratic delegate from York, Pennsylvania.

Ever the diplomat, Rice offers praise for Biden

rtr21oot.jpgCRAWFORD, Texas – Condoleezza Rice, ever the sharp diplomat, found some nice — and some would even say effusive — comments about the man who was just picked to be the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket for the November election.
 
Rice, a Republican who plans to back John McCain, offered the kind words about Sen. Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as she traveled again to the Middle East to try to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“I am not going to comment on the politics of it. I’ll just say that Sen. Biden is obviously a very fine statesman,” she told reporters aboard her plane as she flew to Israel.
 
“I’ve known him for a long time. He’s been a really very supportive committee chair for — and before that, ranking member for the State Department and for our diplomatic efforts,” she said. “And so he’s a — you know, he’s a true, true patriot.”
 
The White House was a bit more circumspect. Spokesman Tony Fratto said that it was an honor for anyone to be a presidential or vice presidential nominee but that was really about as far as he went.
 
“It’s a great honor for anyone who has that opportunity to run in a national election like that, to aspire to represent the country; and so a very personal thing for him and his family,” Fratto told reporters in Crawford, Texas. “Obviously, we’re — we would be happy for him.”
 
Asked about Rice’s proclamation that Biden was a “great stateman” and “true patriot”, Fratto replied that, “He’s done tremendous work over a long period, and I know he has been supportive of Secretary Rice’s State Department.”  

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Ho New (Rice arrives in Tel Aviv.)

Obama, in slip-up, refers to Biden as “next president”

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – Of all the gaffes Democratic White house hopeful Barack Obama probably hoped to avoid, he accidentally introduced Joe Biden as the presidential candidate rather than the No. 2 man on the ticket.rtr21mtc.jpg

He quickly corrected himself but the McCain campaign quickly pounced on the mistake to suggest that Biden, a veteran Delaware senator, might wield the real power in an Obama administration.

As Biden stepped to the podium at his first joint rally with Obama, the Democratic White House candidate said, “Let me introduce to you, the next president — the next vice president of the United States of America: Joe Biden.”

Does Biden help Obama or raise experience questions?

rtr21kzo.jpgDemocratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s pick of former rival Joe Biden to be his vice presidential running mate taps his experience as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but drew quick critiques.

Almost instantly questions were raised about whether the selection opens Obama up to criticism that he is weak on foreign policy — and rival Republican John McCain’s campaign quickly seized on that point by launching an new television advertisement (see below).

Meanwhile, while news that former rival Hillary Clinton was not vetted by Obama for his short-list of vice presidential contenders was probably going to irk her supporters already bitter that she is not the nominee, Clinton was one of the first to issue a supportive statement of the ticket.