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Should Veep Stay or Should Joe Go?

There may be a gaffe too much for the Obama campaign, but pulling a switcheroo could bring as much heartburn as help.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

May 18, 2012 - 11:43 am
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He’s just one loose-lipped, goofy-grinned moment away from making a “pull my finger” joke at the vice presidential debate.

And don’t think the White House doesn’t know this. I wouldn’t imagine they’re upset at Vice President Joe Biden for forcing Obama’s hand on gay marriage, as that looked too well planned to be an accident and history will likely reveal that the vice president was dutifully testing the public-sentiment waters.

But every time I see a private meeting on the White House press schedule between President Obama and Biden, I imagine what sort of dressing down the veep is getting for his latest gaffe, his latest YouTube and Twitter sensation, his latest cloaked reference to the president’s manhood.

And yet Vice President Joe Biden is working the campaign trail multiple days a week, pushing a series of well-placed policy speeches to constituencies in swing states, acting like he’s not going anywhere and is considered a valuable part of the re-election effort.

In one corner, Biden is seen as a jocular Everyman who can comfortably hang out in Small-Town America as Obama hits the luxe fundraisers in New York and L.A. His speeches, even when you factor in the daily foot-in-mouth, are more down-to-earth and off-the-cuff than President Teleprompter’s, lending accessibility to an otherwise stuffy ticket. He’ll open his wallet in the Dairy Queen to woo voters and he’ll praise Obama like he just walked across the Potomac to a choir of angels. His quips and off-color jokes provide for handy distractions, when needed, from policies and headlines the campaign would rather you ignore.

In the other corner, Biden is a living, breathing, jabbering reminder of what won’t be remembered as one of Obama’s best judgment calls. You don’t want a vice president to outshine the commander in chief’s glory, but you don’t want people fervently praying that he won’t have to step into the presidential role. And you don’t want the world’s most wanted terrorist talking about what an awesome idea it would be to get your veep promoted because he wouldn’t know his left foot from his right.

In one way, you can assume that the country and the campaign are used to it by now, like the drunk uncle whose behavior at my childhood best friend’s quinceañera was so predictable it even ceased to be embarrassing, as her family just brushed off his antics and accentuated the positives of the day.

But in a race that’s going to be a close one, as Biden endlessly reminds crowds while trying to stoke that 2008 feeling, you also want the strongest possible ticket. You want a No. 2 who’s ready for the White House — and you want the voters to feel just as confident with this fact — should anything happen to the president. You want a person who can ably take on the currently unknown challenger (back to those VP debate fears). You want to show a sense of loyalty, especially to a guy you’ve been pushing out to campaign for you, but you don’t want voters to think that you’re such a pushover that you’ll keep an incapable No. 2 just because you don’t want to rock the boat.

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