ⓘ United States Senate career of Joe Biden

United States Senate career of Joe Biden

ⓘ United States Senate career of Joe Biden

Joe Biden served in the United States Senate from 1973 through 2009. Biden, a member of the Democratic Party from Delaware, was first elected to the Senate in November 1972 at age 29, and was sworn into office at age 30 on January 3, 1973. He was elected to seven terms, before he resigned on January 20, 2009, the day he became vice president of the United States during the presidency of Barack Obama.


1. 1972 U.S. Senate campaign

Joe Biden, a member of the New Castle County Council, decided to run in the 1972 U.S. Senate election in Delaware against Republican incumbent senator J. Caleb Boggs. Boggs was considering retirement, which would likely have left U.S. Representative Pete du Pont and Wilmington Mayor Harry G. Haskell Jr. in a divisive primary fight. To avoid that, President Nixon helped convince Boggs to run again with full party support. No other Democrat wanted to run against Boggs.

Bidens campaign had little and was given no chance of winning. His sister. Valerie Biden Owen, managed his campaign as she would his future campaigns and other family members staffed it. The campaign relied upon handed-out newsprint position papers and meeting voters face-to-face; the states smallness and lack of a major media market made that approach feasible. He did receive some help from the AFL–CIO and Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell. His campaign focused on withdrawal from Vietnam; the environment; civil rights; mass transit; more equitable taxation; health care; the publics dissatisfaction with politics as usual,; and "change". During the summer, he trailed by almost 30 percentage points, but his energy level, his attractive young family, and his ability to connect with voters emotions gave him an advantage over the ready-to-retire Boggs. Biden won the November 7 election by 3.162 votes.


1.1. 1972 U.S. Senate campaign Family deaths

On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after the election, Bidens wife and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Delaware. Neilia Bidens station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailer truck as she pulled out from an intersection. Bidens sons Beau and Hunter survived the accident and were taken to the hospital in fair condition, Beau with a broken leg and other wounds, and Hunter with a minor skull fracture and other head injuries. Doctors soon said both would make full recoveries. Biden considered resigning to care for them, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield persuaded him not to. In later years, Biden often said the truck driver had drunk alcohol before the collision, but the drivers family has denied that claim and the police never substantiated it.


2.1. United States Senate 1973–2009 Recovery and remarriage

Biden was sworn into office on January 5, 1973, by secretary of the Senate Francis R. Valeo in a small chapel at the Delaware Division of the Wilmington Medical Center. Beau was wheeled in with his leg still in traction; Hunter, who had already been released, was also there, as were other members of the extended family. Witnesses and television cameras were also present and the event received national attention.

At age 30 the minimum age required to hold the office, Biden became the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history, and one of only 18 who took office before turning 31. But the accident that killed his wife and daughter left him filled with both anger and religious doubt: "I liked to Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because Im the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?

Biden had in fact cited Kinnock as the source for the formulation on previous occasions. But he made no reference to the original source at the August 23 Democratic debate at the Iowa State Fair being reported on, or in an August 26 interview with the National Education Association. Moreover, while political speeches often appropriate ideas and language from each other, Bidens use came under more scrutiny because he changed aspects of his own familys background to match Kinnocks. Biden was soon found to have lifted passages from a 1967 speech by Robert F. Kennedy earlier that year for which his aides took the blame, and a short phrase from the 1961 inaugural address of John F. Kennedy; and to have done the same with a 1976 passage from Hubert H. Humphrey two years earlier.

A few days later, Bidens plagiarism incident in law school came to public light. Video was also released showing that when earlier questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, he had said he graduated in the "top half" of his class, that he had attended law school on a full scholarship, and that he had received three degrees in college, each of which was untrue or an exaggeration. Advisers and reporters pointed out that he falsely claimed to have marched in the civil rights movement.

The limited amount of other news about the race amplified these revelations, when most of the public was not yet paying attention to the campaigns; Biden thus fell into what The Washington Post writer Paul Taylor called that years trend, a "trial by media ordeal". Lacking a strong group of supporters to help him survive the crisis, he withdrew from the race on September 23, 1987, saying his candidacy had been overrun by "the exaggerated shadow" of his past mistakes.

After Biden withdrew, it was revealed that the Dukakis campaign had secretly made a video highlighting the Biden–Kinnock comparison and distributed it to news outlets. Later in 1987, the Delaware Supreme Courts Board of Professional Responsibility cleared Biden of the law school plagiarism charges regarding his standing as a lawyer, saying Biden had "not violated any rules".


2.2. United States Senate 1973–2009 Brain surgeries

In 1988, Biden suffered two brain aneurysms, one on the right side and one on the left. Each required surgery with high risk of long-term impact on brain functionality. In February 1988, after suffering from several episodes of increasingly severe neck pain, Biden was taken by long-distance ambulance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and given lifesaving surgery to correct an intracranial berry aneurysm that had begun leaking. While recuperating, he suffered a pulmonary embolism, a major complication.

Another operation to repair a second aneurysm, which had caused no symptoms but was at risk of bursting, was performed in May 1988. The hospitalization and recovery kept Biden from his duties in the Senate for seven months. Biden has had no recurrences or effects from the aneurysms since then.

In retrospect, Bidens family came to believe the early end to his presidential campaign had been a blessing in disguise, for had he still been campaigning in 1988, he might well not have stopped to seek medical attention and the condition might have become unsurvivable. In 2013, Biden said, "they take a saw and they cut your head off" and "they literally had to take the top of my head off." He also said he was told he would have less than a 50% chance of full recovery.

In 2019, the neurosurgeon who operated on Biden in 1988 said he felt Biden was fit to run for president, and joked, ". hes the only politician in Washington Im sure has a brain, because Ive seen it."


2.3. United States Senate 1973–2009 Senate Judiciary Committee

Biden was a longtime member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He chaired it from 1987 to 1995 and served as ranking minority member from 1981 to 1987 and from 1995 to 1997.

While chairman, Biden presided over two of the most contentious U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings in history, Robert Borks in 1987 and Clarence Thomass in 1991. In the Bork hearings, he stated his opposition to Bork soon after the nomination, reversing his approval in an interview of a hypothetical Bork nomination he had made the previous year and angering conservatives who thought he could not conduct the hearings fairly. At the close, he won praise for conducting the proceedings fairly and with good humor and courage, despite his presidential campaigns collapse in the middle of them. Rejecting some of the less intellectually honest arguments that other Bork opponents were making, Biden framed his discussion around the belief that the U.S. Constitution provides rights to liberty and privacy that extend beyond those explicitly enumerated in the text, and that Borks strong originalism was ideologically incompatible with that view. Borks nomination was rejected in the committee by a 9–5 vote, and then rejected in the full Senate, 58–42.

In the Thomas hearings, Bidens questions on constitutional issues were often long and convoluted, to the point that Thomas sometimes forgot the question being asked. Bidens style annoyed many viewers. Thomas later wrote that despite Bidens earlier private assurances, his questions had been akin to beanballs. The nomination came out of the committee without a recommendation, with Biden opposed. In part due to his own bad experiences with his presidential campaign, Biden was reluctant to let personal matters into the hearings. He initially shared with the committee, but not the public, Anita Hills sexual harassment charges, on the grounds she was not yet willing to testify. After she did, Biden did not permit other witnesses to testify further on her behalf, such as Angela Wright and experts on harassment. Biden said he was striving to preserve Thomass right to privacy and the hearings decency. The full Senate confirmed Thomas by a 52–48 vote, with Biden again opposed. During and afterward, liberal legal groups and womens groups strongly criticized Biden for mishandling the hearings and not doing enough to support Hill. Biden later sought out women to serve on the Judiciary Committee and emphasized womens issues in the committees legislative agenda. In April 2019, he called Hill to express regret over how he treated her; after the conversation, Hill said she remained deeply unsatisfied.

Biden was involved in crafting many federal crime laws. He spearheaded the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, also known as the Biden Crime Law, which included the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004 after its ten-year sunset period and was not renewed. It also included the Violence Against Women Act VAWA, which contains a broad array of measures to combat domestic violence. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Morrison that the VAWA section allowing a federal civil remedy for victims of gender-motivated violence exceeded Congresss authority and was therefore unconstitutional. Congress reauthorized VAWA in 2000 and 2005. Biden has said, "I consider the Violence Against Women Act the single most significant legislation that Ive crafted during my 35-year tenure in the Senate." In 2004 and 2005, he enlisted major American technology companies in diagnosing the problems of the Austin, Texas-based National Domestic Violence Hotline, and to donate equipment and expertise to it in a successful effort to improve its services.

Biden was critical of the actions of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr during the 1990s Whitewater controversy and Lewinsky scandal investigations, and said, "its going to be a cold day in hell" before another Independent Counsel would be granted the same powers. He voted to acquit on both charges during the impeachment of President Clinton.

As chairman of the International Narcotics Control Caucus, Biden wrote the laws that created the U.S. "Drug Czar", who oversees and coordinates national drug control policy. In April 2003, he introduced the Reducing Americans Vulnerability to Ecstasy RAVE Act. He continued to work to stop the spread of "date rape drugs" such as flunitrazepam, and party drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine. In 2004, he worked to pass a bill outlawing steroids like androstenedione, the drug many baseball players used.

Bidens "Kids 2000" legislation established a public-private partnership to provide computer centers, teachers, Internet access, and technical training to young people, particularly low-income and at-risk youth.


2.4. United States Senate 1973–2009 Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Biden was a longtime member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In 1997, he became the ranking minority member and chaired the committee in January 2001 and from June 2001 to 2003. When Democrats retook control of the Senate after the 2006 elections, Biden again assumed the top spot on the committee. He was generally a liberal internationalist in foreign policy. He collaborated effectively with important Republican senators such as Richard Lugar and Jesse Helms and sometimes went against elements of his own party. Biden was also co-chairman of the NATO Observer Group in the Senate. A partial list covering this time showed Biden meeting with 150 leaders from nearly 60 countries and international organizations. He held frequent hearings as chairman of the committee, as well as many subcommittee hearings during the three times he chaired the Subcommittee on European Affairs.

Biden voted against authorization for the Gulf War in 1991, siding with 45 of the 55 Democratic senators; he said the U.S. was bearing almost all the burden in the anti-Iraq coalition.

Biden became interested in the Yugoslav Wars after hearing about Serbian abuses during the Croatian War of Independence in 1991. Once the Bosnian War broke out, Biden was among the first to call for the "lift and strike" policy of lifting the arms embargo, training Bosnian Muslims and supporting them with NATO air strikes, and investigating war crimes. The George H. W. Bush administration and Clinton administration were both reluctant to implement the policy, fearing Balkan entanglement. In April 1993, Biden spent a week in the Balkans and held a tense three-hour meeting with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Biden related that he had told Milosevic, "I think youre a damn war criminal and you should be tried as one." Biden wrote an amendment in 1992 to compel the Bush administration to arm the Bosnians, but deferred in 1994 to a somewhat softer stance the Clinton administration preferred, before signing on the following year to a stronger measure sponsored by Bob Dole and Joe Lieberman. The engagement led to a successful NATO peacekeeping effort. Biden has called his role in affecting Balkans policy in the mid-1990s his "proudest moment in public life" related to foreign policy.

In 1998, Congressional Quarterly named Biden one of "Twelve Who Made a Difference" for playing a lead role in several foreign policy matters, including NATO enlargement and the successful passage of bills to streamline foreign affairs agencies and punish religious persecution overseas.

In 1999, during the Kosovo War, Biden supported the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia and Montenegro, and co-sponsored with John McCain the McCain-Biden Kosovo Resolution, which called on President Clinton to use all necessary force, including ground troops, to confront Milosevic over Serbian actions in Kosovo. In 2016, Biden paid a state visit to Serbia where he met with Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic and expressed his condolences for the civilian victims of the bombing campaign.

Biden was a strong supporter of the 2001 war in Afghanistan, saying, "Whatever it takes, we should do it."

As head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden said in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a threat to national security and there was no option but to "eliminate" that threat. In October 2002, he voted in favor of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, approving the U.S. invasion of Iraq. More significantly, as chair of the committee, he assembled a series of witnesses to testify in favor of the authorization. They gave testimony grossly misrepresenting the intent, history of and status of Saddam and his Sunni government, which was an openly avowed enemy of al-Qaida, and touting Iraqs fictional possession of weapons of mass destruction.

While he eventually became a critic of the war and viewed his vote and role as a "mistake", he did not push for U.S. withdrawal. He supported the appropriations to pay for the occupation, but argued repeatedly that the war should be internationalized, that more soldiers were needed, and that the Bush administration should "level with the American people" about the cost and length of the conflict. By late 2006, Bidens stance had shifted considerably, and he opposed the troop surge of 2007, saying General David Petraeus was "dead, flat wrong" in believing the surge could work. Biden instead advocated dividing Iraq into a loose federation of three ethnic states. In November 2006, Biden and Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, released a comprehensive strategy to end sectarian violence in Iraq. Rather than continuing the present approach or withdrawing, the plan called for "a third way": federalizing Iraq and giving Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis "breathing room" in their own regions. In September 2007, a non-binding resolution endorsing such a scheme passed the Senate, but the idea was unfamiliar, had no political constituency, and failed to gain traction. Iraqs political leadership denounced the resolution as de facto partitioning of the country, and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement distancing itself from it.

In March 2004, Biden secured the brief release of Libyan democracy activist and political prisoner Fathi Eljahmi, after meeting with leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli. In May 2008, Biden sharply criticized President George W. Bush for his speech to Israels Knesset, where he suggested some Democrats were acting the way some Western leaders did when they appeased Hitler in the run-up to World War II. Biden said, "This is bullshit. This is malarkey. This is outrageous. Outrageous for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, sit in the Knesset. and make this kind of ridiculous statement. Since when does this administration think that if you sit down, you have to eliminate the word no from your vocabulary?" He later apologized for using the expletive.


2.5. United States Senate 1973–2009 Delaware matters

Biden was a familiar figure to his Delaware constituency, by virtue of his daily train commute from there, and generally sought to attend to state needs. He strongly supported increased Amtrak funding and rail security; he hosted barbecues and an annual Christmas dinner for the Amtrak crews, who sometimes held the last train of the night a few minutes so he could catch it. He earned the nickname "Amtrak Joe" as a result. He was an advocate for Delaware military installations, including Dover Air Force Base and New Castle Air National Guard Base.

In 1978, when Biden was seeking reelection to the Senate, Wilmingtons federally mandated cross-district busing plan generated much turmoil. Bidens compromise solution between his white constituents and African-American leaders was to introduce legislation to outlaw the courts power to enforce certain types of busing, while allowing it to end segregation school districts had deliberately imposed. White anti-integrationists seized on a comment Biden made that he would support the use of federal helicopters if Wilmingtons schools could not be voluntarily integrated, and Delaware NAACP head Littleton P. Mitchell later said Biden "adequately represented our community for many years, but he quivered that one time on busing." The compromise nearly alienated him from both working-class whites and African-Americans, but tensions ended after the end of a teachers strike that began over pay issues raised by the busing plan.

Beginning in 1991, Biden served as an adjunct professor at the Widener University School of Law, Delawares only law school, teaching a seminar on constitutional law. The seminar was one of Wideners most popular, often with a waiting list for enrollment. Biden typically co-taught the course with another professor, taking on at least half the course minutes and sometimes flying back from overseas to make one of the classes.

During the 2000s, Biden sponsored bankruptcy legislation that was sought by MBNA, one of Delawares largest companies, and other credit card issuers. He allowed an amendment to the bill to increase the homestead exemption for homeowners declaring bankruptcy and fought for an amendment to forbid anti-abortion felons from using bankruptcy to discharge fines; President Clinton vetoed the bill in 2000 but it finally passed in 2005 as the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, with Biden supporting it. A vociferous supporter, Biden was one of only 18 Democratic senators to vote with the Republicans in favor of the legislation, while leading Democrats and consumer rights organizations came out in opposition.

Biden held up trade agreements with Russia when that country stopped importing U.S. chickens. The downstate Sussex County region is the nations top chicken-producing area.

In 2007, Biden requested and gained $67 million worth of projects for his constituents through congressional earmarks.


2.6. United States Senate 1973–2009 Reputation

Following his first election in 1972, Biden was reelected to six more Senate terms, in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008, usually getting about 60% of the vote. He did not face strong opposition; Pete du Pont, then governor, chose not to run against him in 1984. Biden spent 28 years as a junior senator due to the two-year seniority of his Republican colleague William Roth. After Tom Carper defeated Roth in 2000, Biden became Delawares senior senator. He then became the longest-serving senator in Delaware history and, as of 2018, was the 18th-longest-serving senator in U.S. history. In May 1999, Biden became the youngest senator to cast 10.000 votes.

With a net worth between $59.000 and $366.000, and almost no outside income or investment income, Biden was consistently ranked one of the least wealthy members of the Senate. Biden said he was listed as the second-poorest member in Congress; he was not proud of the distinction, but attributed it to having been elected early in his career. He has said he realized early in his senatorial career how vulnerable poorer public officials are to offers of financial contributions in exchange for policy support, and pushed campaign finance reform measures during his first term. Biden earned $15.6 million in 2017–18. By 2019, Biden called his middle-class status a "state of mind". His assets increased to between $2.2 million and $8 million.

The political writer Howard Fineman has said, "Biden is not an academic, hes not a theoretical thinker, hes a great street pol. He comes from a long line of working people in Scranton - auto salesmen, car dealers, people who know how to make a sale. He has that great Irish gift." Political columnist David S. Broder has viewed Biden as having grown since he came to Washington and since his failed 1988 presidential bid: "He responds to real people - thats been consistent throughout. And his ability to understand himself and deal with other politicians has gotten much better." Traub concludes that "Biden is the kind of fundamentally happy person who can be as generous toward others as he is to himself."


2.7. United States Senate 1973–2009 Gaffes

During his years as a senator, Biden acquired a reputation for loquaciousness and "putting his foot in his mouth". He has been a strong speaker and debater and a frequent and effective guest on Sunday morning talk shows. In public appearances, he is known to deviate from prepared remarks. The New York Times wrote that Bidens "weak filters make him capable of blurting out pretty much anything".


3. 2008 presidential campaign

Biden thought about running for president again ever since his failed 1988 bid. He declared his candidacy for president on January 31, 2007, after having discussed running for months. Biden made a formal announcement to Tim Russert on Meet the Press, saying he would "be the best Biden I can be". In January 2006, Delaware newspaper columnist Harry F. Themal wrote that Biden "occupies the sensible center of the Democratic Party". Themal concluded that was the position Biden desired, and that in a campaign "he plans to stress the dangers to the security of the average American, not just from the terrorist threat, but from the lack of health assistance, crime, and energy dependence on unstable parts of the world."

During his campaign, Biden focused on the war in Iraq and his support for implementing the Biden-Gelb plan to achieve political success. He touted his record in the Senate as the head of major congressional committees and his experience in foreign policy. Despite speculation to the contrary, Biden rejected the notion of becoming Secretary of State, focusing on only the presidency. At a 2007 campaign event, Biden said, "I know a lot of my opponents out there say Id be a great secretary of state. Seriously, every one of them. Do you watch any of the debates? Joes right, Joes right, Joes right. Other candidates comments that "Joe is right" in the Democratic debates were converted into a Biden campaign theme and ad. In mid-2007, Biden stressed his foreign policy expertise compared to Obamas, saying of the latter, "I think he can be ready, but right now I dont believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training." Biden also said Obama was copying some of his foreign policy ideas. Biden was noted for his one-liners on the campaign trail, saying of Republican then-frontrunner Rudy Giuliani at the debate on October 30, 2007, in Philadelphia, "Theres only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb and 9/11." Overall, Bidens debate performances were an effective mixture of humor, and sharp and surprisingly disciplined comments.

Biden made controversial remarks during the campaign. On the day of his January 2007 announcement, he spoke of fellow Democratic candidate and Senator Barack Obama: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy - I mean, thats a storybook, man." This comment undermined his campaign as soon as it began and significantly damaged his fund-raising capabilities; it later took second place on Time magazines list of Top 10 Campaign Gaffes for 2007. Biden had also been criticized in July 2006 for a remark he made about his support among Indian Americans: "Ive had a great relationship. In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. Im not joking." Biden later said the remark was not intended to be derogatory.

In an unusual move, Biden shared campaign planes with one of his rivals for the nomination, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Dodd and Biden were friends and seeking to save funds during somewhat long-shot efforts at the nomination.

Overall, Biden had difficulty raising funds, struggled to draw people to his rallies, and failed to gain traction against the high-profile candidacies of Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton; he never rose above single digits in national polls of the Democratic candidates. In the first contest on January 3, 2008, Biden placed fifth in the Iowa caucuses, garnering slightly less than one percent of the state delegates. He withdrew from the race that evening, saying, "There is nothing sad about tonight. I feel no regret."

Despite its lack of success, Bidens stature in the political world rose as the result of his 2008 campaign. In particular, it changed the relationship between Biden and Obama. Although the two had served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, they had not been close, with Biden resenting Obamas quick rise to political stardom and Obama viewing Biden as garrulous and patronizing. Having gotten to know each other during 2007, Obama appreciated Bidens campaigning style and appeal to working-class voters, and Biden said he became convinced Obama was "the real deal".


4. 2008 vice-presidential campaign

Shortly following Bidens withdrawal from the presidential race, Obama privately told him he was interested in finding an important place for Biden in his administration. Biden declined Obamas first request to vet him for the vice-presidential slot, fearing the vice presidency would represent a loss in status and voice from his Senate position, but later changed his mind. In a June 22, 2008, interview on NBCs Meet the Press, Biden confirmed that, although he was not actively seeking a spot on the ticket, he would accept the offer if it came. In early August, Obama and Biden met in secret to discuss the possibility, and developed a strong personal rapport. On August 22, 2008, Obama announced that Biden would be his running mate. The New York Times reported that the strategy behind the choice reflected a desire to fill out the ticket with someone with foreign policy and national security experience - and not to help the ticket win a swing state or to emphasize Obamas "change" message. Others pointed out Bidens appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters, as well as his willingness to aggressively challenge Republican nominee John McCain in a way that Obama seemed uncomfortable doing at times. In accepting Obamas offer, Biden ruled out running for president again in 2016, but his comments in later years seemed to back off that stance, as he did not want to diminish his political power by appearing uninterested in advancement. Biden was officially nominated for vice president on August 27 by voice vote at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

After his selection as the vice-presidential candidate, Bidens Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington confirmed that even if elected vice president, he would not be allowed to speak at Catholic schools. The bishop of his original hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, soon barred Biden from receiving Holy Communion because of his support for abortion rights, but Biden continued to receive Communion at his local Delaware parish. Scranton became a flashpoint in the competition for swing-state Catholic voters between the Democratic campaign and liberal Catholic groups, who stressed that other social issues should be considered as much as or more than abortion, and many bishops and conservative Catholics, who maintained abortion was paramount. Biden said he believed life begins at conception but would not impose his religious views on others. Bishop Saltarelli had previously said of stances like Bidens, "No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena. Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena."

Bidens vice-presidential campaigning gained little media visibility, as far greater press attention was focused on the Republican running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. During one week in September 2008, for instance, the Pew Research Centers Project for Excellence in Journalism found that Biden was included in only five percent of coverage of the race, far less than the other three candidates on the tickets received. Biden nevertheless focused on campaigning in economically challenged areas of swing states and trying to win over blue-collar Democrats, especially those who had supported Hillary Clinton. Biden attacked McCain heavily despite a long-standing personal friendship; he said, "That guy I used to know, hes gone. It literally saddens me." As the financial crisis of 2007–2010 reached a peak with the liquidity crisis of September 2008 and the proposed bailout of the United States financial system became a major factor in the campaign, Biden voted in favor of the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which went on to pass in the Senate 74–25.

On October 2, 2008, Biden participated in the vice-presidential debate with Palin at Washington University in St. Louis. Post-debate polls found that while Palin exceeded many voters expectations, Biden had won the debate overall. On October 5, Biden suspended campaign events for a few days after the death of his mother-in-law. During the campaigns final days, he focused on less populated, older, less well-off areas of battleground states, especially Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where polling indicated he was popular and where Obama had not campaigned or performed well in the Democratic primaries. He also campaigned in some normally Republican states, as well as in areas with large Catholic populations.

Under instructions from the Obama campaign, Biden kept his speeches succinct and tried to avoid offhand remarks, such as one about Obamas being tested by a foreign power soon after taking office, which had attracted negative attention. Privately, Bidens remarks frustrated Obama. "How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?" he asked. Obama campaign staffers referred to Biden blunders as "Joe bombs" and kept Biden uninformed about strategy discussions, which in turn irked Biden. Relations between the two campaigns became strained for a month, until Biden apologized on a call to Obama and the two built a stronger partnership. Publicly, Obama strategist David Axelrod said Bidens high popularity ratings had outweighed any unexpected comments. Nationally, Biden had a 60% favorability rating in a Pew Research Center poll, compared to Palins 44%.

On November 4, 2008, Obama was elected president and Biden was elected vice president. The Obama–Biden ticket won 365 electoral votes to McCain–Palins 173, and won 53% of the popular vote.

Biden had continued to run for his Senate seat as well as for vice president, as permitted by Delaware law. On November 4 he was also reelected to the Senate, defeating Republican Christine ODonnell. Having won both races, Biden made a point of holding off his resignation from the Senate so he could be sworn in for his seventh term on January 6, 2009. He became the youngest senator ever to start a seventh full term, and said, "In all my life, the greatest honor bestowed upon me has been serving the people of Delaware as their United States senator." Biden cast his last Senate vote on January 15, supporting the release of the second $350 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Biden resigned from the Senate later that day; in emotional farewell remarks on the Senate floor, where he had spent most of his adult life, Biden said, "Every good thing I have seen happen here, every bold step taken in the 36-plus years I have been here, came not from the application of pressure by interest groups, but through the maturation of personal relationships."

Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner appointed longtime Biden adviser Ted Kaufman to complete his term. Kaufman chose not to run for a full term, allowing Democrat Chris Coons to succeed him after a special election in 2010.

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