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The Biden trump

Special Commentary by Chris Graham

Joe Biden isn’t the breakaway dunk that Hillary Clinton or Mark Warner would have been for Barack Obama, but to continue with the basketball analogy, he’s the back-to-the-basket post player who can rebound and play defense that every team needs to be able to win a championship, or in this case an election.

Which is to say, given a couple of days to think it through, since it became clear to me on Thursday that Biden was the pick, I’m seeing the wisdom of Obama-Biden that I didn’t see initially.

Clinton would have closed the most obvious gap in Obama’s resume by giving the Illinois senator unfettered access to her primary and caucus supporters, nearly half of whom haven’t committed themselves to the Obama candidacy according to recent polls. But could that have been a smokescreen on the part of the Hillaryites out there to try to convince Obama through the pollsters that he needed to put their woman on the ticket with him? I’m cognizant of the fact that there are people who think themselves lifelong Democrats and who supported Hillary Clinton in the nomination season who will not vote for Obama in November. I talked with a local Dem here in Augusta County at length at the county fair a couple of weeks back who expressed to me that she was hoping that “something would come out” about Obama akin to the news that former presidential-nomination contender John Edwards had had an affair, “and then Hillary gets the nomination.” That woman, and people like her, are not going to vote for Obama, and whether they vote for McCain or not on Nov. 4, those are votes lost to Obama. But I wonder if those voters would have cast their lots for Obama even with Hillary on the ticket. And I’m wondering if the more thoughtful among that voter subgroup won’t eventually come around now that it’s Biden, another experienced Senate Democrat.

As far as Virginia is concerned, I am beginning to see where Biden will be a big help to the Obama effort, and maybe more so than anyone not named Mark Warner could have been on the national ticket. (And of course we effectively have Warner on our national ticket, since he’s running for Senate and is expected to have upward coattails for Obama.) Biden’s tenure as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and long track record of experience in international matters will be a tremendous boost to the ticket in Hampton Roads, which my friend Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University tells me is open for the taking by Democrats based on recent election trends. Obama will already do very well in Northern Virginia and the Richmond area, where he oupolled Clinton and Republican John McCain by wide margins in the Feb. 12 presidential primary in Virginia. And I think he has a fighting chance in the Valley, Southwest and Southside due to the presence of Biden and Warner on the ballot, and even if he doesn’t win majorities out this way, I think he can mirror the efforts of Warner in 2001, Tim Kaine in 2005 and Jim Webb in 2006 and do well enough out there to build a winning effort in the Old Dominion come November.

Now to the impact on McCain, who it seems has been waiting to come up with his own VP selection based on the news from the Obama camp that has now finally after a long wait come in. The talk in recent days has been that McCain seems to be settling on former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or independent (and former Democratic) Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman. I would mention Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in this grouping, since he has been getting some pub, though fading, in recent days, but I think the Biden pick on the Dem side pushes the inexperienced Pawlenty to the wayside, as it does Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. The Electoral College strategy just won’t work for McCain now that Obama has decided to play the experience card. That said, McCain stands to risk losing ground with either Romney or Lieberman depending on the demographic group that you consider that each appeals to and detracts from. Romney, no question, energizes the hard-core conservatives in the GOP, though the hardest of the hard core might still worry about his tendency to flip-flop from the Romney who was the moderate Massachusetts governor and the Romney who was the committed conservative on the presidential trail depending on the audience. And Lieberman, no questin, again, gives McCain a legitimate shot at bringing to the GOP ticket the votes of those disaffected Hillary supporters who don’t want to pull the lever for Obama and are offended that he didn’t pick Clinton as his VP.

But a Lieberman selection quiets the conservative base in an instant and pushes the McCain candidacy into the dust bin of history with George McGovern and Walter Mondale. And a Romney selection, while not having that dramatic an impact, still puts McCain behind the 8 ball, because while it energizes to a degree the conservative base that he will need to have behind him to win on Nov. 4, it gives those disaffected Hillary voters something to think about when it comes to having to hold their nose and vote for Obama, whose ideals, at least, match their own, or having to hold their nose and vote for McCain, a onetime moderate whose administration would clearly turn the world in a decidedly different direction than they would ever want to see it go, personal feelings aside.

John McCain has a lot of soul-searching to do in the next several days, and personally, I don’t see any way he can come out of the Veepstakes with a valid declaration of victory at this point. And remember, the guy saying this was saying just a couple of days ago that the signs were pointing elsewhere.

That’s called the value of a full night’s sleep, which I was finally able to get last night for the first time in a couple of weeks after this wild Veepstakes at long last came to a close.

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