Senator Joe Biden, the Delaware democrat, has maturity and huge foreign relations experience, filling a gap in the record of US Democrat nominee-presumptive Senator Barack Obama. His selection on Saturday as Obama’s running mate shows Obama as both centrist and conscious of the gaps in his record. The main problem for markets and the economy? Neither of them has run so much as a hot dog stand.
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Biden adds considerable strength to Obama’s ticket. He is Catholic, a product of a blue-collar upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a state which Obama must carry and where he had difficulty in the primaries.
Biden has huge experience, particularly in foreign policy—he is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the party’s foreign-policy heavyweights—an area of increased political salience following the Georgia invasion.
While politically centrist, Biden is a fluent and aggressive partisan, as he demonstrated during the Senate judiciary hearings he chaired for supreme court nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas (the African-American Thomas was recently named by Obama as his “unfavourite” justice). Thus he reassures both voters worried about Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience and those concerned he may be excessively radical.
However, the ticket still lacks executive experience. Biden was elected to the Senate at age 30, after only three years of law practice. Thus, neither he nor Obama has significant private sector managerial bona fides, or public sector experience as governor of a state for example.
The smooth efficiency of Obama’s primary campaign suggests that he is at least an adequate manager, but overall the ticket will have less executive experience than any since Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin in 1860 (and even Hamlin had been governor of Maine for six weeks.)
Economically, Biden adds little, not having been involved in that field. He voted in favour of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) in 1993, but against the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2005.
That suggests that Obama will remain firmly in control of the economic policy agenda, and does not throw further light on the divergence between Obama’s protectionist statements in the primaries and his University of Chicago adviser Austan Goolsbee’s reassurances to the Canadian government that Obama still supported Nafta.
Up against a potential addition of former Bain private equity supremo Mitt Romney on the John McCain ticket, this presages a fight to the finish on the subject of greatest import to most voters—money.