Biden Barnstorming in Small Towns
By Perry Bacon Jr.
KETTERING, Ohio -- While Gov. Sarah Palin is at the center of speculation about both her clothes and her future within the GOP, her counterpart is making headlines in local but not national news, just like his aides like it.
Republicans have continued to highlight a remark that Sen. Joe Biden made a few weeks ago, in which he suggested Sen. Barack Obama might face an international crisis early in his tenure as people around the world might test a new, young American president. But the Delaware senator has of late avoided what Obama politely called his "rhetorical flourishes."
Instead, Biden is ending his vice-presidential campaigning the same way he started it: stumping in small towns in traditional battleground states and casting Obama as the man who can fix America's economy.
"I know it's Halloween, but John McCain dressed as agent of change is a costume that just doesn't fit," the senator from Delaware told a crowd of several hundred here.
While Obama's schedule is full of appearances in front of huge crowds in big cities, often in states like North Carolina or Colorado that have in the past been strongly Republican, his running mate will spend the rest of his days on the campaign trail in towns like Kettering or Bowling Green, Ohio, where Biden will appear tomorrow.
The geography of his campaign appearances in some ways resembles the way former president Bill Clinton aided his wife during her primary campaign -- by heading to small towns -- and also that of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who campaigned in Williamsport, Penn., on Thursday, a few hours after Biden spoke in there.
The headlines in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette today define what Biden aides said has been the Delaware senator's strength, collecting valuable coverage in local media. While Biden has made few headlines nationally except for his occasional gaffes, the paper had twin headlines on its front page "Palin drums up GOP enthusiasm" and "Biden battles for votes at stop."
In fact, Palin, who once campaigned almost exclusively with McCain, is now taking the approach Biden has long adopted, splitting off from the man at the top of the ticket to hit more media markets.
And while Palin initially reshaped the race so dramatically that Doug Schoen, a Democratic pollster and former aide to President Clinton, described the campaign dynamic as "two against one" because Biden was drawing so little attention, Palin's uneven performances changed how the vice-presidential candidates are viewed. Biden has not generated the kind of enthusiasm Palin has among his party's base, but many independent voters in polls doubt the Alaska governor is ready to be vice-president but are confident about Biden.
Biden's weakness, the occasional off-the-wall remark, is likely to less of a problem in the last few days. With a packed schedule of campaign events, he's giving shorter speeches, sticking to his teleprompter more, cutting off his rambling asides a bit quicker and never interacting with the reporters following him on the campaign trail.
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