At a late-afternoon community meeting, on a grassy field at Linvilla Orchards in Delaware County, Penn., the reemergence of Joe Biden continued Tuesday.The Democratic vice presidential candidate, thoroughly overshadowed the last few weeks by his Republican counterpart, Sarah Palin, spoke for nearly 40 minutes to several thousand supporters, many of them union members.
And he carried out his newly defined role with gusto, blasting John McCain time and time again as “profoundly out of touch” with the nation’s troubled middle class.
“John McCain could continue to believe what he said recently, that we’ve made great economic progress in the last eight years,” Biden said. “Ladies and gentlemen, I can walk from here back to Wilmington and not run into a single person who thinks we’ve made great economic progress _ unless I ran into John McCain himself.”
Earlier in the day, Biden was all over national television, serving as the campaign’s spokesman to counter the GOP presidential nominee’s views on the troubles of some of the nation’s leading financial firms.
“I’d say take a look at who, in fact, has had their hand on the wheel the last eight years,” he said in one interview, linking McCain with President Bush. “Take a look at that. … Take a look at who got us in this hole. This has been a Republican philosophy of letting Wall Street do what they want and the middle class be damned.”
When chosen as the Democratic running mate, the senior senator from Delaware was widely hailed by party leaders as a strong complement to presidential nominee Barack Obama. They viewed him as a powerful voice for the party’s core concerns, and as someone whose six terms in the Senate would reassure voters worried about Obama’s relative lack of experience.
But the moment Gov. Palin was named by McCain, Biden seemed to disappear from the political scene _ as did the confidence among Democrats that he had, in fact, been a wise choice.
Last week, Biden, in response to a question at a town-hall meeting, said that Hillary Rodham Clinton “quite frankly might have been a better pick than me.”
Other Democrats have expressed similar sentiments.
The Obama campaign now seems determined to prove Biden’s value, primarily as someone eminently qualified to dissect McCain’s record, having served alongside him in Washington for 22 years.
And the polls suggest that Biden hasn’t been as much of a nonfactor as the conventional wisdom would have it.
In a survey last week by the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, 24 percent of Pennsylvania voters said Palin’s presence in the race made them more likely to vote for the Republican ticket, 23 percent less likely.
As for Biden, 23 percent said he made them more likely to vote Democratic, only 12 percent less likely.
This gives some credibility to the Democratic hope that Biden, as a native of Scranton, Pa., and longtime senator of a neighboring state, actually might help the ticket in Pennsylvania, where he has been spending considerable time.
On the other hand, Obama’s once significant lead in polls in the state is now down to almost nothing.
“He (Biden) is not going to help in Pennsylvania at all,” state Republican chairman Rob Gleason told reporters Tuesday, saying that Palin was much the stronger vice presidential candidate and that the Scranton connection carried little weight. “He’s not energizing anybody. I’m very pleased they picked him as their nominee.”
As part of his planned reemergence, Biden gave a much-ballyhooed address in Michigan on Monday, accusing his longtime Senate colleague of being a Bush policy clone and of going after Obama in a dishonorable way.
“The same campaign that once called for a town hall a week is now launching a low blow a day against Barack Obama,” Biden said.
But his words were largely overwhelmed by the chaos on Wall Street; the major political news of the day was the reaction of McCain and Obama to those events.
Undaunted, the Obama strategists put Biden back in the national spotlight yesterday. And late yesterday afternoon, the once-forgotten candidate of the 2008 campaign was in Middletown Township, surrounded by pumpkins and haystacks and Democrats on picnic tables.
There, he repeated some of the tough lines he first voiced Monday, proclaiming as absurd the idea that the McCain-Palin ticket represented real change.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am sick and tired of this Republican garbage,” he said. “Don’t tell me who’s on the side of middle-class people trying to make it. It is not George Bush. It is not John McCain.”
Biden’s next big moment comes two weeks from Thursday. That’s when he shares the debate stage with the governor of Alaska.