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Joe Biden: Anatomy of a Choice

Barack Obama picked his running mate in damage control mode, hoping the longtime Delaware senator would steer him through a sea of unhappy Hillary Clinton supporters, says USC professor Patrick James. But the move may irritate young Obama activists, who are opposed to politics as usual.

Patrick James of the USC College dissects the factors that led Barack Obama to select longtime Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate.

“Obama was in damage control mode with this choice,” James says. “Biden is a time-honored figure in the party, generally acceptable to both the left and centrist factions. He is probably least offensive to the still-alienated Hillary Clinton voters, among the salient choices available for VP.

“Biden is a double-edged sword in terms of the experience he brings to the ticket,” James adds. “Unlike Obama, he has a thick resume as a long-serving senator. At the same time, some of the high-energy and (generally) young Obama activists may be turned off by the choice of someone who is a party insider.

“These pressures back and forth on Obama are caused by the transition to a general electorate that is not the same as the one he managed to win over as the Democratic nominee,” James explains. “My guess is that Obama’s research revealed that choosing Biden will provide minimum losses among Clintonites, along with some shielding against charges of inexperience that inevitably will keep coming from the other side. In addition, Biden ran for president recently, so any skeletons in his closet almost certainly are out in the open; there would be a greater risk with less visible candidates.

“Evan Bayh would have been the more interesting choice, but his relatively young age would not have helped the ticket if, as I suspect, Obama’s private polling is showing softness among Clintonites who say they want more experience.”

Patrick James is professor of International Relations in the USC College and director of USC’s Center for International Studies. He is an expert on crisis management and American foreign policy. James is the author of 12 books and more than one hundred other publications. He has lectured and held visiting professorships at universities in the United States and around the world.

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Joe Biden: Anatomy of a Choice

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