A little advice for Joe Biden

DENVER — After six terms in the Senate, Joe Biden knows politics. Inside out. But, hey, everybody can use a little advice now and then, right? Five Associated Press reporters offer Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate some suggestions for the road ahead.


Dear Joe:

Want to win? Don’t watch your mouth. And, ignore the handlers who tell you otherwise.

It’s what makes you real — and sets you apart from so many politicians who are so incredibly scripted and careful that they come across as fake and, well, boring.

Yes, you’re long-winded. Yes, you sometimes make inartful comments. Yes, you seem to like the sound of your own voice.

But, so do most people.

Some folks cringed when you said: “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” Others raised their eyebrows when you called Obama “articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” And your attempt at humor on Saturday — saying that your wife, Jill, “is drop dead gorgeous” and oh, by the way, “also has her doctorate degree, which is a problem” — got mixed reviews.

But just about everyone can relate with putting their proverbial foot in their mouth, and a politician who relates to people typically is the one who keeps his or her job.

Is it any wonder that you’ve kept your Senate seat for more than three decades? You must be doing something right.

— By Liz Sidoti.


Dear Joe:

A word of caution. Show some restraint in what you say.

During the primary campaign, you spent your first day as an official presidential candidate explaining why you had described rival Barack Obama as “clean.”

And that remark at the end of January 2007 wasn’t the first time your mouth got you in trouble. Months prior, you had to explain away that “Dunkin’ Donuts” riff.

Now that Obama has picked you as a running mate, you need to be prepared to have your words picked over.

Remember your first presidential bid, 20 years ago? It collapsed amid allegations you’d plagiarized a campaign speech by then-British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.

You’ve predicted your verbosity won’t be a problem this time around.

We’ll see.

— By Ann Sanner


Dear Joe:

Be yourself.

Countless pundits and poohbahs will tell the Obama team to rein you in, curb your famous verbosity, keep you relentlessly on message. Ignore them.

Sure, you will talk too much on occasion, and it will cause some minor flaps here and there. But being yourself will reap more benefits than headaches for the ticket, because it will let your strengths come through.

In a Senate full of smart people (well, mostly), you are one of the best-versed on foreign policy, legal/judicial issues and other matters. Even though you like John McCain, you know when and how to whack an opponent. (“A noun, a verb and 9/11,” your putdown of Rudy Giuliani, is the 2008 campaign’s best soundbite). You are funny, and you like the give-and-take of politics, as you’ve proven in countless bull sessions with reporters in the Capitol.

Yes, sometimes you go on too long. Folks will get over it. You will stifle your strongest assets — your wit, enthusiasm, experience, pugnacity — if you try to watch every word.

Let Biden be Biden. Go for it.

— By Charles Babington


Dear Joe:

You need to figure out how to square 36 years in the Senate with Barack Obama’s message of change.

This was supposed to be a change election, what with a bad economy, an unpopular war and an unpopular sitting Republican president.

Obama’s message of change went a long way toward helping him clinch the Democratic nomination for president. It was an obvious message for the first-term senator from Illinois, and he used it effectively.

Obama isn’t going to abandon that message now. So you need to show how your experience will help to bring about the change he’s talking about.

It won’t be an easy maneuver. Just ask John McCain.

McCain, who was first elected to Congress in 1982, flirted with his own change theme early in the campaign, but has had more success hammering Obama’s lack of experience.

Obama chose you to beef up the experience quotient on the Democratic ticket. It’s up to you to make sure you don’t negate the campaign’s core message.

— By Stephen Ohlemacher


Dear Joe:

Don’t be petty. The campaign is just kicking into high gear and there have already been enough — more than enough — sniping.

Did John McCain really compare Barack to Britney? Isn’t there an expiration date on McCain’s remark about not understanding the economy?

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be aggressive and funny. The Obama campaign could use a dose of both.

Your whack at Rudy Giuliani’s obsession with 9/11 is a classic example of how to do it. That illustrated a real Giuliani weakness in a devastatingly funny way.

But dwelling on the petty stuff makes a campaign look weak and desperate. It tells voters that neither candidate is worth their respect. Maybe some candidates can afford to lose respect, but not Obama. His campaign is built around the idea that he’s a grown-up, someone who will stay focused on solving problems.

If you send voters the message that Obama is just another politician taking partisan potshots, then what does he have left?

— By Chris Wills

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