SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Barack Obama introduced Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware on Saturday as “a leader ready to step in and be president.” The newly named running mate quickly converted his debut on the Democratic ticket into a slashing attack on Republican John McCain.
The GOP presidential contender 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 nevertheless called his personal friend.
It was a reference to McCain’s recent inartful admission, in a time of economic uncertainty, that he was not sure how many homes he owns.
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 47-year-old Obama’s selection of a seasoned 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.
Polls show Obama rates relatively poorly against McCain on foreign policy issues, and Biden is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with extensive experience in that area.
McCain called Biden a “wise selection.” But McCain indicated that he believed there was still plenty to criticize the Obama-Biden ticket on foreign policy.
“I know that Joe will campaign well for Senator Obama, and so I think he’s going to be very formidable,” McCain told CBS News. “I’ve always respected Joe Biden, but I disagreed with him from the time he voted against the first Gulf War to his position where he said you had to break Iraq up into three different countries. We really have different approaches to many national security issues.”
Biden, a 65-year-old congressional veteran, 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 and spring.
Obama made a symbolic choice for the site of the ticket’s first joint appearance. 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.
Polls indicate a highly competitive race at the end of a summer, after McCain eroded what had been Obama’s slender advantage in the national surveys.
McCain’s convention opens on Labor Day in St. Paul, Minn. He has yet to select a running mate.
Responding to Obama’s pick, the McCain campaign quickly produced a television ad featuring Biden’s previous praise for McCain and comments critical of his new benefactor. In an ABC interview last year, Biden 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 training.”
In addition, the Republican Party arranged for an independent advertising campaign to coincide with the Democratic convention. One individual familiar with the plans described a $2.25 million effort on cable and broadcast stations through Aug. 31 in the battleground states of Colorado, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.