SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Barack Obama introduced Sen. Joe Biden
of Delaware on Saturday as a man "ready to step in and be
president," and the newly minted running mate quickly converted
his debut on the Democratic ticket into a slashing attack on
Republicans seeking four more years in the White House.
Sen. John McCain will have to "figure out which of the seven
kitchen tables to sit at" when considering his own economic
future, said Biden, jabbing at the man he called his personal
It was a reference to McCain's recent inartful admission - in a
time of economic uncertainty - that he was not sure how many homes
Before a vast crowd spilling out from the front of the Old State
Capitol, Obama said Biden was "what many others pretend to be - a
statesman with sound judgment who doesn't have to hide behind
bluster to keep America strong."
Democrats coalesced quickly around the 47-year-old Obama's
selection of the veteran of three decades in the Senate - a choice
meant to provide foreign policy heft to the party's ticket for the
fall campaign against McCain and the Republicans.
Biden emerged as Obama's choice after a secretive selection
process that reviewed at least a half-dozen contenders - but
evidently not Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady who was
Obama's tenacious rival across the primaries and caucuses of winter
Obama made a symbolic choice for the site of the ticket's first
It was a brutally cold winter day more than a year ago when he
stood outside the historic structure in the Illinois capital to
launch his quest for the White House.
He returned this day in sunshine, the party's improbable
nominee-in-waiting, a black man in his first Senate term who
outdistanced a crowded field of far better-known and more
experienced rivals for the nomination.
The Democratic National Convention opens on in Denver Monday to
nominate him as president and Biden as vice president, the ticket
that Democrats hope to ride into the White House after eight years
of Republican rule.
A security fence sprung up overnight around the Pepsi Center as
the pace of preparations picked up in advance of Monday night's
opening session, and police on bicycles patrolled nearby streets.
Inside the sports arena, even the Zamboni machine - the
lumbering, wheeled vehicle used to resurface the ice between
periods of hockey games - had been moved out to make room for the
McCain's convention opens on Labor Day. He has yet to select a
Polls indicate a highly competitive race at the end of a summer
in which McCain eroded what had been Obama's slender advantage in
the national surveys.
Responding to Obama's pick, the McCain campaign wasted no time
trying to turn the selection to its own purposes.
It quickly produced a television ad featuring Biden's previous
praise for McCain and comments critical of Obama. In an ABC
interview last year, Biden had said he stood by an earlier
statement that Obama wasn't yet ready to be president and "the
presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job
Obama brought Biden on stage with his glowing introduction to
the strains of Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising."
The newly named running mate moved center stage in shirt-sleeves
at a brisk trot that belied his 65 years, and embraced Obama.
"I'm glad to be here," said the man who has twice sought the
presidency and emerged as Obama's pick only in the past few days.
Thousands of newly printed signs bearing the words Obama/Biden
sprouted in the crowd that waited in anticipation in 90-degree
Both men spoke for 16 minutes - unlikely a coincidence given
Biden's reputation for verbosity.
Obama's remarks were carefully crafted to emphasize Biden's
accomplishments in the Senate, his blue-collar roots and - above
all - his experience on foreign policy.
"I can tell you Joe Biden gets it," he said. "He's that
unique public servant who is at home in a bar in Cedar Rapids and
the corridors of the Capitol, in the VFW hall in Concord, and at
the center of an international crisis," he said.
In contrast to the Obamas and the McCains, the Delaware senator
isn't a multimillionaire. Biden and his wife, Jill, have $59,000 to
$366,000 in assets and $140,000 to $365,000 in debts, including a
$15,000 to $50,000 line of credit Biden co-signed with his son to
cover college expenses, according to a June financial disclosure
report, which describes assets and liabilities in ranges.
Obama recounted the personal tragedy that struck Biden more than
30 years ago, within days of his election to the Senate, when his
first wife and their child were killed in an automobile accident.
He said Biden raised his surviving children as a single parent,
commuting between the Capitol and Delaware daily on the Amtrak
"For decades, he has brought change to Washington, but
Washington hasn't changed him," Obama said, attempting to blunt an
emerging Republican line of attack that notes Biden's three decades
in the polished corridors of the Capitol.
"He's an expert on foreign policy whose heart and values are
rooted firmly in the middle class."
In a jab at McCain that foretold Biden's far sharper criticism,
Obama said his political partner "will give us some real straight
Biden offered parts praise for Obama and criticism of McCain.
"You can't change America and make things better for our senior
citizens when you signed on to Bush's scheme of privatizing Social
Security," he said.
"You can't change America and end this war in Iraq when you
declare - and again these are John's words - 'No one has supported
President Bush in Iraq more than I have,' end of quote. ladies and
gentlemen, you can't change America, you can't change America when
you know your first four years as president will look exactly like
the last eight years of George Bush's presidency."
Biden returned to Delaware to prepare for the fall campaign.
Obama was returning to Chicago before heading out to a trip across
swing states en route to the convention.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)