Congratulations, Mr. Biden. You have the chance to end your political career by ascending into the most useless elected position in America. Cheney is an anomaly in US history, exerting an unprecedented amount of influence. Biden won’t do much, so it doesn’t really matter who Obama picked as VP.
In terms of getting elected, it also doesn’t really matter who Obama picked. The vice president, historically, doesn’t net extra votes or create a net loss of votes. Did Dan “Potatoe” Quayle cost Bush the election in 1988? (No, Bush won.) Did the young Southerner Al Gore push Bill Clinton over the top? I highly doubt the polls will show a direct Biden effect, whether negative or positive.
It could become very easy to over-analyze this. You could say, “Wow, this hurts Obama’s message of CHANGE.” You could say, “Biden will reassure people who worry about the gaps in Obama’s resume.” Overall, the general response of the public will be a big yawn. Most people don’t even know who Dick Cheney is.
I do see one possible strategic value to Biden. He can serve as an attack dog. This, in and of itself, isn’t very special; the VP candidate is supposed to act as a surrogate for negative campaigning, preventing the presidential candidate from sullying his image. However, McCain does have a nasty temper. It would be good to knock him off his game with some really nasty attacks, a la Biden’s “noun, verb, 9/11” line on Rudy Giuliani. It’s following Sun Tzu’s advice: “If you enemy is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.”
I do think this is a promising tactic based on the past, with the Republican debates. I remember particularly one debate where McCain was ticked off because of Mitt Romney’s attack ads. Here were my thoughts:
One of the best moments of the debates was when Romney said, “Don’t try to mischaracterize my position.” And Huckabee replied, “Which one?” I thought it was hilarious. But then, the attacks continued. By the time I got to McCain’s agreement that Romney was “the candidate of change,” it was getting really old and I was slightly peeved. McCain seemed to take a vicious glee in the personal attack. It seemed like a tired attack by a man who lacked a way to launch a substantive argument. In retrospect, though, the attacks seem deserved. Romney boldly lied that his ads did not call McCain’s plan amnesty. They did. (Go look them up on YouTube.)
Basically, McCain looked like an asshole. In fact, when I looked up this old blog entry, it was worse than I thought. This “vicious glee” won’t look good in the debates with Obama.
We also can take a look at McCain’s speech back in June — you know, the one with the lime green backdrop and the borrowed “A Leader We Can Believe In” catchphrase. I remember McCain’s grimace after saying, “That’s not change we can believe in.” It was bad.
Of course, there’s also the flip-side that Biden is a gaffe machine. Still, I don’t think this will really matter overall, since he’s a VP candidate and who gives a shit about the VP. The difference between Biden’s own gaffes and what I mentioned above, is that this would cause McCain to do something. McCain’s the real candidate and what he does has a much bigger effect on the race. Biden’s gaffes don’t similarly translate into Obama gaffes.
Overall, a solid, but forgettable pick.