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Sen. Joe Biden Addresses the DNC

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Wired: Media beat Obama to the punch

Best-laid plans: Media beat Obama to the punch


from Wired News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Barack Obama’s pledge to supporters that they would be the “first to know” his running mate turned out to be a savvy but unworkable communications strategy.

The Democratic presidential candidate got scooped by the media on his own announcement, done in by dogged reporting, loose-lipped party insiders and the limits of technology.

But all was not lost. He amassed a huge database of cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses for the fall campaign.

Obama’s plan to use text messaging to announce his choice was a first in politics. He had promised supporters that by providing cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses they would be “part of this important moment” – the revelation of his choice for vice president.

The text message announcing Biden as Obama’s pick began filtering across the U.S. at 3:02 a.m. EDT Saturday, when most people were asleep. By then, it was old news, by today’s standards. The media had reported the pick more than two hours earlier.

Michael Silberman, a partner at online communications firm EchoDitto, said the campaign gambled when they made such a high-stakes promise and find themselves in a precarious situation where they could risk a great deal of trust with supporters.

“For Obama supporters, this is like finding out from your neighbor instead of your sister that she’s engaged – not how you want or expect the news to be delivered,” Silberman said.

The campaign won’t say how many people signed up to receive the text message, nor will the small Washington, D.C., company that handled the imposing chore.

“It’s a big number,” said Kevin Bertram, the 37-year-old founder and CEO of Distributive Networks.

The 16-employee firm, which built the text messaging system, has higher-paying clients. According to Federal Election Commission records, it has received about $130,000 from the Obama campaign, not including August.

But no account has a higher profile, Bertram said.

“We have seen some text campaigns in the many hundreds of thousands of opt-in mobile users over the past couple years, all in the consumer products-services realm,” said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson. “This is the first massive effort in the political world.”

He said the scale appeared similar to Olympics updates, which occur several times a day.

CTIA, the wireless industry’s lobbying organization, says in the month of December alone, there were more than 48 billion text messages sent in the U.S.

The real test for Distributive Networks was speed.

“It’s a pretty big challenge, because we’re under a strict time constraint to get all those messages out,” Bertram said.

Simultaneous delivery of millions of text messages is impossible. The messages must be routed to the carriers, which themselves may have bottlenecks.

Bertram said it took about 15 minutes for the bulk of the messages to get through the system. Meanwhile, the campaign posted the veep choice on its Web site.

The Obama campaign has worked closely with Bertram’s company, asking for added features in the text messaging campaign – like the ability to text supporters based on their ZIP code, a capability that allows for targeted voter-turnout campaigns.

Once the Obama campaign composed and sent the message, it was largely an automated process. The instant the campaign pushed the button, the message text flashed on Bertram’s laptop.

The CEO said he was “nervous, confident, relieved and sleepy all at once” as he watched the text message move through the system.

“Mobile marketing” is a relatively new phenomenon in politics, but one the Obama campaign has capitalized on it like no other.

People can sign up for text and e-mail updates on specific issues. They can get news on campaign appearances, receive discounts for campaign merchandise and even download Obama speech sound bites as ring tones.

It’s also an effective fundraising tool. Anyone who signed up for the notification on the campaign Web site was taken to a page where they could make a contribution.

Overall traffic on Obama’s Web site hit an all-time high Saturday. The Obama campaign said more than 48,000 people watched the live stream of Obama and Biden’s first joint appearance from their Web site. By about mid-afternoon, more than $1.8 million had been contributed online.

Messages can also act as a call to action, encouraging people to call their friends and encourage them to vote or donate to the campaign. The list of cell numbers is similar to campaign snail-mailing lists, but more personal and more valuable.

Of course there is a potential for burnout. Recipients, who pay to receive texts, will not tolerate spam.

“We don’t send a message to anyone who hasn’t initiated contact with the campaign and opted in,” Bertram said. “You have to have a very light touch. If you send someone 10 messages a day, they are just going to say, ‘Stop.'”

—-

Associated Press Writer Nedra Pickler in Denver contributed to this report.

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Biden and McCain, Rivals Again

from the Washingtonpost.com

By Michael D. Shear, Paul Kane and Jonathan Weisman
By selecting Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate, Barack Obama has picked a Senate colleague who has a long and friendly rivalry with Obama’s Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain.

From their perches on the leading foreign policy committees, Biden and McCain have shadowboxed across the globe, building reputations as experts in their respective parties on war and peace.

But their clash over the direction of the war in Iraq — and now the prospect of a high-stakes political campaign this fall — has strained that collegial relationship, leaving both men more than willing to do battle with the other.

“He has respect for McCain but he’ll be the first to angered by the sort of cheap shots they’re throwing at Obama now,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who predicted that Biden will relish the role of playing a lead attack dog on McCain.

Over the years, Biden and McCain have traveled broadly, often returning from war zones to spar with each other on the Sunday morning talk shows. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, Biden visited Iraq more than 7 times; McCain has returned to Iraq eight times as the senior Republican on the Armed Services committee.

The result was a rivalry — and a friendship — built on respect, people in both parties said. In 2005, Biden told comedian Jon Stewart that “John McCain is a personal friend, a great friend. I would be honored to run with or against John McCain because I think the country
would be better off.”

Asked in 1999 what he would do on the first day of his presidency, McCain said he would “call in Joe Biden and John Kerry and Zbigniew Brzezinski and Carl Levin and like-minded Republicans” for a frank discussion about the need for a bipartisan foreign policy.

“They actually have a long and good relationship. They’re friends,” a senior Biden aide said Saturday morning.

McCain called his colleague early Saturday morning to congratulate him, aides said. In his first speech as Obama’s running mate, Biden acknowledged that McCain is “genuinely a friend of mine” before proceeding to blast his friend for being a wholehearted backer of the Bush-McCain policies that Biden said threaten the future.

That friendship dates back decades, to the time that a young John McCain served as a staffer to senators like Biden. It was then, McCain has said, that he first wanted to become a member of Congress.

In a biography of McCain, author Robert Timberg wrote that “McCain was much in demand for overseas escort duty…He was fun to be around, his wit appealing, his natural exuberance infectious. In an Athens taverna he danced on a table with Senator Joseph Biden’s wife, Jill, a red bandanna clenched in his teeth.”

Later, as senators, the pair sometimes joined forces, especially on military and foreign policy matters. In 1999, a “McCain-Biden” bill would have authorized President Bill Clinton to use “all necessary force,” including ground troops, in Yugoslavia.

Democrats and the Republican Senate leadership opposed the bill as too broad and too open-ended, and rejected it, but the partnership was an example of their willingness to work collaboratively.

Biden and McCain both have sons in the military, giving each a personal connection to the war they see so differently. McCain’s son, Jimmy is a Marine who served in Iraq until Feburuary. Biden’s son, Beau, a reserve officer who is the Attorney General of Delaware, reports to Iraq in October.

They are also both shaped by tragedy. McCain spent five-and-a-half years in a Vietnamese prison after being captured when his plane was shot down. Biden’s wife and infant daughter were killed in an auto accident shortly after his first election.

On a lighter note, both Biden and McCain were among the most frequent guests on Don Imus’ radio show, often heaping praise on each other. During one show in 2006, Biden was effusive about McCain’s efforts to stop the Bush Administration’s torture policy.

“You know, I mean, thank God for John McCain in saying, whoa, what are you guys talking about?,” Biden told Imus.

But that friendship is likely to be strained further during the
upcoming election, as Biden is tasked by Obama to attack McCain. It is a task he had already begun even before being picked.

In April, Biden gave a speech at Georgetown University in which he said there is “no daylight between John McCain and George Bush. They are joined at the hip.”

In the speech, he called McCain “a man I greatly admire, a man I consider a personal and close friend.” But he went on to slam what he called a “myopic” view of foreign policy and said that “fundamental change” will require “more than a great soldier. It’s going to require a wise leader.”

Last month, in another speech, Biden accused McCain of “profound confusion” and “twisted logic” on the fight against terrorism and urged him to “study history” on the subject.

It is on terrorism and Iraq that there are likely to be the greatest clashes.

Both supported the authorization for war in Iraq, though Biden argues he was trying to give Bush the strongest hand possible force United Nations weapons inspectors back in. After the invasion, Biden preceded McCain in arguing for additional troops.

But in 2006, the two broke irrevocably. With sectarian violence spiraling, Biden argued that 500,000 troops wouldn’t bring peace if the Iraqis couldn’t reconcile.

Since then, they have traveled separately and returned with
opposite conclusions. About the time McCain earned criticism walking around a Baghdad Market in a flak jacket and offering a rosy assessment, Biden was marooned in Fallujah in a sand storm. Stuck in a room with Iraqi politicians, he was struck by the discord and lack of
will to reconcile.

Staff researchers Alice Crites and Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

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Wired Mag: Biden Good on Civil Liberties, Friendly to Hollywood

from Wired

Joe Biden

By Sarah Lai Stirland

Barack Obama’s campaign finally texted his choice for vice president in the wee hours of Saturday morning: As reported, he’s chosen Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware as his vice presidential running mate.

Though he’s known best for his foreign policy credentials, the 66-year-old senator’s work on the Senate Judiciary Committee has put him in the middle of most of the defining issues of the internet age — epic fights over intellectual property, privacy and antitrust law.

The role of the vice president in influencing an administration’s tone and policy varies with the character of the executive teams occupying the White House, but as Al Gore demonstrated while Bill Clinton’s vice president, there are plenty of opportunities for the veep to push specific items to the top of the  agenda.

“They can be a thought leader, a convener, a driver of national strategy, an exhorter to industry,” said Larry Irving, a former adviser to the Clinton White House, earlier this week.

Biden, a 30-plus-year veteran of the senate, has been a strong supporter of civil liberties. Most recently, he diverged from Obama’s position when he voted in July against a controversial bill that legalized President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. The legislation also provided legal immunity to the telecommunications providers subjected of dozens of lawsuits for participating in the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

And during the fall 2005 senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Biden grilled Roberts in his views of privacy in the high-tech age — an issue Biden said was of equal importance to Roe v. Wade.

But Biden’s most-recent reputation in D.C. on telecom issues is more ambiguous, particularly when it comes to net neutrality. Though he ostensibly supported the concept as a presidential candidate during this election cycle, in hearings on Capitol Hill he’s been a hesitant supporter for pro net-neutrality legislation.

On the intellectual property front, Biden doesn’t seem to have strayed from the rest of the judiciary committee democrats’ stance of being more of a friend to Hollywood than to Silicon Valley.

Like many other members of congress, on the relatively infrequent occasions when he does talk about intellectual property, his focus is on piracy. He co-chairs the congressional international anti-piracy caucus. Earlier this year, the group fingered specific trading partners, countries where it said digital-copyright piracy had reached “alarming levels.” The group of countries included China, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Greece and Spain.

The group didn’t recommend any specific sanctions against the countries, but Biden repeated an often-heard line on the Hill at the time.

“Our ideas, our music, our books, our movies, our innovations are just as precious as any tangible property,” he said. “With new technologies coming out at warp speed, this global problem will only get worse.”

Back in 2002, Biden also authored a controversial anti-counterfeiting bill that was amended to include a draconian provision that would have made it a de facto crime to replicate a digital-rights management under any circumstances. Critics decried the idea because they said it would crimp individuals’ ability to play their media on devices of their choosing. Violators of the law would have faced prison sentences of up to five years and civil penalties of up to $25,000.

Though he might be known for his foreign policy credentials, Biden often is no diplomat.

As Slate‘s John Dickerson joked in a recent Twitter post, Obama might introduce the senator from Delaware and explain his pick by saying that he’s a “clean and articulate” and “a nice-looking guy.”

Biden caused a furor in February 2007 when he was quoted on Obama by The New York Observer.

At the time, he said: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Biden subsequently apologized for the remark.

But when they’re timed right, his blunt remarks can also be a riot. During the CNN YouTube debate last July, when asked about what they liked about the candidate next to them, Biden quipped that he didn’t like anything about Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

Then he added: “But the thing I like about him most is his wife.”

Kucinich is married to 31-year-old Elizabeth Kucinich, who’s six foot tall and made a striking impression on the campaign trail with her long red hair and good looks.

In an obvious ploy to build its databases of voter contact information, the Obama campaign promised that it would let supporters know about his vice presidential pick via text message.

The campaign has drawn out the release of its announcement for so long that some people started to prank each other with fake texting announcements.

Twitter became an often hilarious watercooler network of Obama VP pick jokes as people frittered away their Friday wondering who it would be.

“Just warning you Obama, if your txt wakes me up I’ll be much less enthusiastic about your veep choice,” tweeted Joel Davis late Friday night.

The warning, it turned out, was prescient: Obama texted his choice for Biden at 3 am Saturday morning East Coast time.

The message urged supporters to watch the first Obama-Biden rally at 3 pm Eastern on Barackobama.com.

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OBAMABIDEN08!

AP News Video on Obama Biden 08

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New York Times Op-Ed – I Hope it’s Biden as VP

Hoping it’s Biden

Barack Obama has decided upon a vice-presidential running mate. And while I don’t know who it is as I write, for the good of the country, I hope he picked Joe Biden.

Biden’s weaknesses are on the surface. He has said a number of idiotic things over the years and, in the days following his selection, those snippets would be aired again and again.

But that won’t hurt all that much because voters are smart enough to forgive the genuine flaws of genuine people. And over the long haul, Biden provides what Obama needs:

Working-Class Roots. Biden is a lunch-bucket Democrat. His father was rich when he was young — played polo, cavorted on yachts, drove luxury cars. But through a series of bad personal and business decisions, he was broke by the time Joe Jr. came along. They lived with their in-laws in Scranton, Pa., then moved to a dingy working-class area in Wilmington, Del. At one point, the elder Biden cleaned boilers during the week and sold pennants and knickknacks at a farmer’s market on the weekends.

His son was raised with a fierce working-class pride — no one is better than anyone else. Once, when Joe Sr. was working for a car dealership, the owner threw a Christmas party for the staff. Just as the dancing was to begin, the owner scattered silver dollars on the floor and watched from above as the mechanics and salesmen scrambled about for them. Joe Sr. quit that job on the spot.

Even today, after serving for decades in the world’s most pompous workplace, Senator Biden retains an ostentatiously unpretentious manner. He campaigns with an army of Bidens who seem to emerge by the dozens from the old neighborhood in Scranton. He has disdain for privilege and for limousine liberals — the mark of an honest, working-class Democrat.

Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, have trouble connecting with working-class voters, especially Catholic ones. Biden would be the bridge.

Honesty. Biden’s most notorious feature is his mouth. But in his youth, he had a stutter. As a freshman in high school he was exempted from public speaking because of his disability, and was ridiculed by teachers and peers. His nickname was Dash, because of his inability to finish a sentence.

He developed an odd smile as a way to relax his facial muscles (it still shows up while he’s speaking today) and he’s spent his adulthood making up for any comments that may have gone unmade during his youth.

Today, Biden’s conversational style is tiresome to some, but it has one outstanding feature. He is direct. No matter who you are, he tells you exactly what he thinks, before he tells it to you a second, third and fourth time.

Presidents need someone who will be relentlessly direct. Obama, who attracts worshippers, not just staff members, needs that more than most.

Loyalty. Just after Biden was elected to the senate in 1972, his wife, Neilia, and daughter Naomi were killed in a car crash. His career has also been marked by lesser crises. His first presidential run ended in a plagiarism scandal. He nearly died of a brain aneurism.

New administrations are dominated by the young and the arrogant, and benefit from the presence of those who have been through the worst and who have a tinge of perspective. Moreover, there are moments when a president has to go into the cabinet room and announce a decision that nearly everyone else on his team disagrees with. In those moments, he needs a vice president who will provide absolute support. That sort of loyalty comes easiest to people who have been down themselves, and who had to rely on others in their own moments of need.

Experience. When Obama talks about postpartisanship, he talks about a grass-roots movement that will arise and sweep away the old ways of Washington. When John McCain talks about it, he describes a meeting of wise old heads who get together to craft compromises. Obama’s vision is more romantic, but McCain’s is more realistic.

When Biden was a young senator, he was mentored by Hubert Humphrey, Mike Mansfield and the like. He was schooled in senatorial procedure in the days when the Senate was less gridlocked. If Obama hopes to pass energy and health care legislation, he’s going to need someone with that kind of legislative knowledge who can bring the battered old senators together, as in days of yore.

There are other veep choices. Tim Kaine seems like a solid man, but selecting him would be disastrous. It would underline all the anxieties voters have about youth and inexperience. Evan Bayh has impeccably centrist credentials, but the country is not in the mood for dispassionate caution.

Biden’s the one. The only question is whether Obama was wise and self-aware enough to know that.

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CBS: Joesph Biden Likely VP Choice

from CBS News Blogs

Posted by Brian Montopoli at CBS News

According to the New York Times, the New York Daily News and others, Barack Obama is primarily focused on three men as his search for a running mate draws to a close this week: Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, and Delaware Senator Joseph Biden.

Biden is perhaps the name with the most buzz at the moment, thanks in part to his foreign policy bona fides, which were recently showcased during his high profile trip to Georgia and call for aid to the country.

“Barring a big surprise or last-minute change of heart, the choice is likely to be Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee,” Howard Fineman wrote on MSNBC today. Time’s Mark Halperin is also suggesting Biden will join Obama on the ticket. And Obama mentioned Biden in a speech today, further fueling speculation.

Now we are getting a preview of how Republicans might target the ticket should Biden get the nod. Earlier today, the Republican National Committee sent around a blog post from Politico’s Ben Smith showing a Biden ad from 1988.

It opens with an announcer saying this: “The White House isn’t the place to learn how to deal with international crisis, the balance of power, war and peace, and the economic future of the next generation. A President has got to know the territory, but that’s not enough.”

That sounds not unlike some of the criticism leveled at Obama, a relative newcomer to the political scene, both by Republicans and former rival Hillary Clinton. Should Biden join Obama on the ticket, it’s likely that Republicans will push this line of attack – particularly since they can link it to his running mate.

Biden is also taking some heat in the liberal blogosphere. In a post yesterday, Markos at Daily Kos questioned Biden’s judgment because the Delaware senator voted for the war.

“It strikes me that any pick designed to cover up a ‘flaw’ in Obama (i.e. ‘lack of foreign policy credentials’) only accentuates those flaws,” Kos writes of Biden. “Make him secretary of state.”

Kos also picks up on one purported problem with Biden – that his long tenure in Washington makes him a bad fit with Obama’s message.

“I’d love to see him pick a fresh face in politics who reinforces Obama’s message of change,” he writes. “Biden doesn’t.”

Obama is expected to announce his running mate to supporters late Friday and appear with him at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois on Saturday.

Delaware State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove told CBSNews.com this afternoon that Biden, who is up for reelection this year, “can run for both seats” if he becomes the vice presidential nominee.

She said the state’s governor, who is sworn in on the same day as the president, would appoint a replacement for Biden should he win Senate reelection and the vice presidency. (Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat, is presently the state’s governor.) Whomever the governor appoints would serve a two year term.

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