CHICAGO - Barack Obama Saturday named veteran Senate colleagueJoseph Biden as his vice presidential running mate, adding foreignpolicy heft — but also a loose tongue — to his ticket for November’selection against Republican John McCain.
After hours of media leaks, the 47-year-old Democratic White Househopeful confirmed that he was picking the Delaware senator, 65, in anearly-hours email and text message sent out to millions of signed-upsupporters.
“I’ve chosen Joe Biden to be my running mate,” Obama said in theemail. “I’m excited about hitting the campaign trail with Joe, but thetwo of us can’t do this alone. We need your help to keep building thismovement for change.”
The new running mates were due to appear together for their firstrally after 3:00 pm (2000 GMT) Saturday in Springfield, Illinois,president Abraham Lincoln’s hometown where Obama began his White Housequest in February 2007.
Biden was then likely to join Obama on a tour of four states to thewest before ending up in Denver for the coming week’s Democraticconvention. He will speak on Wednesday, followed by Obama on Thursday.
The official campaign website already read “Obama-Biden” and itinvited supporters to send a welcome note to Biden, who is a hugelyexperienced Washington insider having entered Congress at the age of 29in 1972.
The chairman of the Senate’s foreign relations committee has twicerun for the presidency himself, including a shot at the Democraticnomination this time round when he had some unflattering things to sayabout Obama’s inexperience.
Republican John McCain’s campaign responded by saying Obama’s choiceof Biden was an admission that the Democrat was not ready to serve aspresident.
“There has been no harsher critic of Barack Obama’s lack ofexperience than Joe Biden,” McCain spokesman Ben Porritt said in astatement.
“Biden has denounced Barack Obama’s poor foreign policy judgment andhas strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quicklyrealizing — that Barack Obama is not ready to be president,” he said .
But in turning to the loquacious and pugnacious Biden, Obama isbanking that the veteran’s expertise on national security will bluntMcCain’s attacks and that his personal background will keep waveringDemocrats in the fold.
A Catholic native of Pennsylvania, Biden brings appeal to the kindof working-class voters with whom the African-American Obama hasstruggled to connect, and who backed his primary rival Hillary Clinton.
In snubbing Clinton for the VP slot, Obama has calculated that Bidencan do as much to reach out to those voters without the need to bringthe political baggage of the former first lady and her husband Bill onboard his campaign.
Obama had said this week that he was looking for a principledrunning mate who was unafraid to speak his mind and tell his boss ifpolicy was veering off-track. Biden fits that bill.
But Biden’s length of experience could also detract from Obama’spromise to sweep away the Washington old guard, and Biden has a longrecord of verbal mis-steps.
Launching his ill-fated shot at the Democratic nomination last year,he said of Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstreamAfrican-American who is articulate and bright and clean and anice-looking guy.”
Biden apologized and Obama said he took no offence, but the Delawaresenator then went on to make another remark that has already becomefodder for Republican attacks.
Ahead of a debate among the Democratic presidential contenders, hehad said Obama “can be ready, but right now I don’t believe he is. Thepresidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.”
At the debate in Iowa, he said: “I think I stand by the statement.”
Biden emerged on top after Obama reportedly broke the news to twoother leading contenders — Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and VirginiaGovernor Tim Kaine — that they were no longer under consideration.
Earlier, ABC News said a detail of Secret Service agents had beensent to assume Biden’s protection in preparation for his new role as anofficial candidate for high office.
But the Illinois senator’s campaign had been resolutelytight-lipped, having promised to release the vice presidential pick inan electronic blizzard to registered supporters. In the event, thatplan was trumped by leaks to the media.
The confirmation of Biden as Obama’s running mate will feed intoMcCain’s decision-making as he prepares to announce his own VP pick atthe end of next week, just before the Republican convention in StPaul-Minneapolis.
Two front-runners for the 71-year-old Arizona senator are formerMassachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.