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Joe Biden’s Long Political Career Leads to VP Nomination

August 27, 2008 at 6:15 PM EDT
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Following last week's running mate announcement, the Democratic convention in Denver is now a showcase for Joe Biden as well as Barack Obama. Ray Suarez takes a snapshot of who Joe Biden is.
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RAY SUAREZ: There have been glimpses of Joe Biden in advance of his Wednesday convention speech: barbecue with his family, at an economics roundtable with Michelle Obama, and on the convention floor during the tribute to Senate colleague Ted Kennedy.

The Delaware senator was out of sight today, reportedly polishing his acceptance speech.

The Delaware delegation — 15 strong — was ready to see their six-term U.S. senator take the big stage tonight. They’re drawing new attention in Denver.

Secretary of state and long-time friend of Joe Biden, Harriet Windsor.

HARRIET WINDSOR, Secretary of State, Delaware: He’s never changed through his decades of serving the people. He’s a public servant. He has a great sense of humor. He tells it like it is. He’s a straight-shooter, and he’s very proud of that.

But think about his experience, his experience in foreign affairs. That’s going to be quite an asset, certainly, to Barack Obama.

RAY SUAREZ: Early this morning, some Delaware delegates traveled 30 miles from Denver for a community service project to clean up a local state park. Even there, all the talk was of their longtime senator.

BILL SKOGEN, Middletown, Delaware: Joe Biden is family in the state of Delaware. We choke up when we say that, but he is. He is our family. He’s our protector. He looks out for our state and for our nation, and he means a great deal to the state of Delaware.

RAY SUAREZ: Obama announced Biden was the one early Saturday. The newly minted Democratic ticket made their first joint appearance in Springfield, Illinois.

Senator Obama told the crowd of 35,000 why he picked the six-term Delaware Democrat.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: Joe Biden is that rare mix. For decades, he’s brought change to Washington, but Washington hasn’t changed him. He’s an expert on foreign policy whose heart and values are firmly rooted in the middle class.

RAY SUAREZ: Biden was just 30 when he took office in 1973, the minimum age for a U.S. senator. Delaware State Party Chairman John Daniello has known Biden even before that. Many say he convinced Biden to go into politics.

JOHN DANIELLO, Delaware State Party Chairman: I knew Joe when he was 27 years old, I guess. I asked him to run for a county office. He reluctantly said yes, after some persuasion, and made it clear he was more interested in international affairs, and federal government, and judicial issues.

But he ran and won. Two years later, he ran for the United States Senate against the most popular Republican in the state, won by a hair, but he won. The rest is history.

RAY SUAREZ: Biden’s first presidential campaign came in 1988. The bid was derailed by a series of scandals involving plagiarism.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), Delaware: I’m getting fed up with this stuff about how terrible this system is.

RAY SUAREZ: Biden was Senate Judiciary Committee chair for the contentious confirmation hearings for both Robert Bork in 1987 and Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. Now he chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The senator jumped into the 2008 presidential race early last year and withdrew after a poor showing in Iowa.

After bowing out in early January, Biden did not endorse a candidate and downplayed his own vice presidential chances. Now, he says, Democrats have chosen the right man for the job.

SEN. JOE BIDEN: Today, Springfield, I know my feet are in the right place.

And I’m proud to stand firm for the next president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

RAY SUAREZ: Tonight, Senator Biden will speak to 4,400 delegates and the nation with his biggest fans from Delaware seated front and center.