Tennessee lawmakers react to Biden’s VP nod

By MATT MEDVED

Tennessee Democrats praised Democratic presumptive nominee Barack Obama’s announcement of Delaware Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate Saturday, while Republicans claimed the pick amounted to an admission of Obama’s inexperience.

While reports of Biden’s vice presidential nod leaked out to the media Friday evening, the pick was not made official until the Obama campaign sent out a 2 a.m. text message confirmation. Obama and Biden made their first joint rally in Springfield, Illinois Saturday afternoon.

Wilson County Democratic Chairman Todd Sharpe said Biden was a “good, solid pick” and a “likable guy.”

“I hope he brings a little bit of reassurance to the experience question,” said Sharpe.

“Obama represents a whole new idea, its not about ‘is he ready?’ It’s ‘are we ready?’ He has an extraordinary ability to inspire people to demand better for themselves in big numbers. When you put that along with a guy like Biden, it balances it out.”

Sumner County Democratic Vice-Chair Leonard Assante said he had met Biden in the past and was “very happy” to see him on the ticket.

“I was very impressed with his knowledge in foreign policy and defense issues, which is something Obama does not have as much experience on so there’s a good contrast between the two,” said Assante.

“I think it makes the ticket stronger overall. Biden speaks his mind. You hear people talk about him having a big mouth but I like that. I like the honesty.”

Assante said he was pleasantly surprised that he had not heard more dissatisfaction from supporters of New York Senator Hillary Clinton in Tennessee.

“Clinton won Tennessee in the primary and I thought there’d be a lot of people out there wanting her to be the VP pick but I haven’t heard anything,” said Assante.

However, while former Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter praised Biden as a “solid, sound statesman,” he said Clinton was his personal preference.

“I think Biden’s safe and sound and he would complement Obama’s presidency if he’s elected,” said McWherter.

“But I believe if he had picked Hillary we would have had a chance to carry Tennessee. As it is, it will be an uphill battle.”

Serving as Governor from 1987 to 1995, McWherter said he knew Bill Clinton when he was he was the Governor of Arkansas and has supported the family since. McWherter also had some sage advice for the newly minted Democratic ticket.

“They need to get out with the people more, out here to the real America and talk to the average man and woman who get up everyday and send their kids to schools,” said McWherter.

“Hit some places like Murfreesboro instead of Detroit, Johnson City instead of Atlanta. You can have large crowd of sixty or seventy thousand but those are the people who are going to vote for you anyways.”

Tennessee Republican Party spokesman Bill Hobbs said the Biden pick was tantamount to “an admission by Obama that he has absolutely no foreign policy experience” and that it muddled the Democrats’ message.

“You really undercut your message of change when you pick someone with 30 more years of Senate experience than most people have been alive,” said Hobbs. “It’s hard to say you’re the candidate of change when your vice president is the status quo.”

Hobbs echoed an advertisement released by the McCain campaign today, saying that there has been “no harsher critic of Obama’s lack of experience than Joe Biden.”

“On multiple occasions he’s said Obama is simply not ready to be president, he simply does not have the foreign policy experience and credentials that the country needs,” said Hobbs.

“I think voters should consider that ultimately it’s not the vice president we’re electing. The person at top of ticket is Obama and he’ll be making decisions if he’s elected. It’s not Obama and Biden vs. McCain, it’s Obama vs. McCain.”

State Republican Party Chairperson Robin Smith acknowledged that McCain and Biden had been friendly towards one another during their Senate tenures, but pointed to major differences between the two.

“I do think McCain will respect Biden on his accomplished record and that’s the big piece that’s missing with Barack Obama,” said Smith.

“I think we can expect moments of collegial exchange, but without question we know McCain has a much more conserve voting record with regards to taxes, the issue of life, and the definition of marriage. Biden has an extraordinarily liberal voting record.”

John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University, said Biden should prove to be an effective spokesman for Obama and assuage fear about his presidential qualifications.

“This pick became more and more important not only because of Obama’s new emergence on the national scene but also because of the attacks that McCain and fellow Republicans have been leveling on Obama about his readiness to lead,” said Geer.

“If you think of the president and VP as a partnership, which began under Clinton and Gore in 1993, Biden would be a great partner for Obama if he becomes president. Especially if he needs to navigate the tricky international waters.”

Geer said Biden’s life story could appeal to swing blue-collar voters that Obama has had trouble reaching.

“He’s got a compelling narrative and working class roots in Scranton,” said Geer.

“After he was elected to the Senate, he has a tragic car wreck that kills his wife and daughter. Since then, he’s been taking train back and forth to his Delaware home and he’s a totally dedicated family man. He’s actually like McCain in that he’s a genuine guy and is not as scripted as some. But the American public understands that.”

Geer also touched upon some of Biden’s potential downsides, including his status as a long-time Washington inside and his history of verbal gaffes. He said it was possible Republicans would try and use Biden’s controversial description of Obama as “the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” against him.

“Biden sometimes says things he wishes he hadn’t, so you have to do some damage control,” said Geer. “The Republicans will pick through Biden’s long record of votes and pick out quotes of him criticizing Obama or praising McCain. But no candidate’s perfect.”

While Geer does not believe Biden will turn Tennessee blue, he does believe the pick could help Obama in certain battleground states.

“I think Biden provides a little bit of strength here in Tennessee, but it’s not likely to be in play,” said Geer. “But Biden helps him in key states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Virginia and that’s where action’s going to be.”

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~ by Matt Medved on August 23, 2008.

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