So it's now official: The bumperstickers will read: Obama/Biden 2008. Count me among the deeply disappointed.
My objections aren't simply the obvious ones: he adds nothing to the electoral math (Delaware would probably gone Democratic anyway, and besides how many electoral college votes does it have anyway??!!); he is already the butt of late-night talk show jokes about his wind-bagginess; he comes from the Senate as does Obama. All of these would argue against choosing Biden.
But what this decision reveals, at least to my eyes, is that the Obama campaign, having scored a brilliant and stunning upset in the primaries, has decided to play things safe and timid in the general election. They have chosen a man with an impeccable resume, and the pundits will nod their collective heads about all the foreign policy expertise Biden will bring to the ticket. In other words, Obama has made the critical mistake of choosing substance over style.
While Biden makes perfect sense to those inside the proverbial Beltway, voters in Ohio and Michigan and Missouri won't give a hoot that Biden has served for so many years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They will see another East Coast, insider elitist.
My own preference would have been Wesley Clarke. Clarke was written off a few weeks ago because he said things about McBush's military experience which the press deemed out of bounds (though those comments were not, in fact, wrong). By choosing Clarke, however, or a reasonable facsimile, Obama would have thrown down the gauntlet, demostrating that he was willing to take a risk, and that the gloves were coming off over issues of foreign policy and security. And by having a general campaigning next to him, Obama would certainly pull in some of those white, blue-collar voters in Ohio.
On the op-ed page of today's Times (Sat. Aug 23) Charles Blow has a short piece complaining that Obama has lost his momentum (and his lead in the polls) because he has gone professorial in the last few weeks. By picking another professor to run with him, Obama isn't going to get his momentum back.
As it has played out this summer, this presidential election begins to resemble 1988. Michael Dukakis surprised many by winning the nomination, and then proceeded to run a mind-bogglingly dumb fall campaign. I recall at the time that the head of the DNC said if the Democrats couldn't beat George Bush I, they didn't deserve to be in power. Twenty years later, this election is Obama's to lose. Biden is a choice that signals he is playing not to lose. As any sports fan will tell you, that isn't how you win.