Time was when the political woods were full of Joe Bidens—super-gregarious retail politicians who could yell themselves hoarse at one campaign stop about how the rich and powerful are screwing everybody over, then in the next town go all quiet and sincere and wring tears from even the toughest characters in the crowd. Those old-style pols lived to campaign, and they campaigned for their lives—especially back in the way-old days when political speechifying was a major form of entertainment in many parts of the country. The best of them were shameless hams, willing to do just about anything to win a vote; Huey Long, the Louisiana populist who inspired fear in both corporatists and Roosevelt Democrats, was reported to have pulled off his shoes at rallies and wiggled his toes, demonstrating that just like the poor folks in the crowd, he had “relatable” holes in his socks.
Biden hasn’t gone quite that far—yet—but who’d put it past him? Not since Bill Clinton (who was a slicked-up, telegenic version of the pre-mass-media barnstormers) have we had a national candidate who appears to love nothing more than getting out there and winning people over—whether it means buying folks ice cream at Dairy Queen, or cuddling up with a female biker in Ohio (just this past weekend), or inviting a bunch of Pennsylvania firefighters (just today) to come have a drink with him in Washington, pointing to an aide and swearing, “He’s going to call you, no bullshit.”
Some folks may be happy that Biden's the last of a political breed. But not long before he let fly that latest zinger, the vice president had also reminded everyone that there’s a flip side to the wide-open political personality that makes him such a rarity in the contemporary world of candidate-bots. His speech at a memorial to 9/11 victims in Shanksville was a rhetorical masterpiece, deeply personal, spiritual and emotional, and without a moment of smarminess or a smidgeon of insincerity. You’ll see clips of it, but the whole seven minutes is essential viewing—partly as a specimen of what’s been lost in the age of consultants and media gaffe-police, but far more profoundly as a reminder, 11 years later, of what the tragedy meant at the most human level. As he concluded, Biden quotedYeats: “Pray I will, and sing I must, but yet I weep." Amen.
So They Say
"It is becoming clear that if President Obama is reelected, it will be despite the economy and because of his campaign; if Mitt Romney wins, it will be because of the economy and despite his campaign."
—Charlie Cook, National Journal
Daily Meme: House Money
- The presidential race has been all the rage post-conventions, but the House races are starting to heat up too.
- Super PACs and the bad economy have Republicans feeling groovy about their chances and making Austin Powers jokes.
- The "Young Guns" PAC spurred by the movement headed by Young Gun-in-Chief Eric Cantor has spent $2 million on tight House races.
- Paul Ryan is starting to run ads for his back-up plan in Wisconsin, just in case this whole vice-president thing doesn't pan out.
- Even House Democrats are feeling the Republican love—at least in California.
- There's plenty of spending happening in big Senate races too; the DSCC just dropped$320,000 in Connecticut.
- And Crossroads GPS has a new spate of ads starting today in Virginia, Ohio, and Nevada with a sticker price of $2.6 million.
- Overall, the Senate picture looks friendlier than expected for Democrats—despite all the dark money Karl Rove and Co. are funneling into close races.
- And Dems even seem to be warming up to super PACs—although they didn't quite have a choice in the matter.
- Overall, six Senate races are toss-ups—Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Virginia. Expect to hear about these races a lot in the next two months.
- But candidates in tough races shouldn't expect help from the higher-ups. Obama and Romney are fending for themselves.
What We're Writing
- Stephen Franklin: The Chicago teachers’ strike has major implications for labor nationwide.
- Abby Rapoport: The media pay them little attention, but state elections increasingly set the national political agenda.
What We're Reading
- Andy Kroll writes that you shouldn't believe Obama's doomsday fundraising emails.
- The New York Review of Books takes a deep look at America's long and tortuous romance with guns.
- In the wake of the infamous bear hug, Dan Amira rounds up five other awkward campaign moments in Obama history, and yes, the phrase "hottie with a smokin' little body" does come up.
- What’s really behind Romney’s $102 million IRA?
- Now that he’s losing, says Michael Tomasky, brace yourself for what Romney might unleash.
- Kurt Eichenwald: The Bush administration waved away far more than one warning of Al Qaeda’s impending attack in 2001.
Poll of the Day
New game-changing poll from ABC News: Fifty percent of Americans think Obama would be a more loyal friend than Romney. Thirty-six percent think that Romney would be the better one to have around in trying times. Fifty-two percent would rather have Obama as a dinner guest.
For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.