I hope everyone was as relieved as I was to hear that Barack Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate. By picking Biden, Obama has shown he has the political awareness to understand that he needs someone with experience to bolster his credentials with those who have doubts about his readiness for the Presidency.
Given the situation with Russia, it is especially important that he have someone by his side who will give voters confidence that he can handle international crises.
Even before Obama's pick was announced, conservative David Brooks set forth a lot of good reasons Biden should be his choice. Brooks pointed out that Biden's working-class roots, his honesty, and his experience in the Senate would help Obama connect with the voters and help him steer his way through the Gordian Knot of Congress when he wants to get things done. And he won't be a yes-man to Obama; he'll tell it like it is, which Obama himself has said he needs in a Vice President.
Best of all, Biden will be able to go after John McCain in a way Obama can't, with his image of being a new kind of politician. Being all post-partisan is all well and good, but Obama has to win, and McCain's smears have been starting to take their toll. Biden can help bring the conversation back to what a disaster the Bush Administration has been and why McCain will just perpetuate the mess, as well as pointing out the many mistakes McCain has been making during this campaign.
Frank Rich in today's NY Times discusses what Obama should be doing next - talking about the future and how his vision of the future differs from McCain's. And he also points out that Americans are more worried about the economy than foreign affairs.
"How we dig out of this quagmire is the American story that Obama must tell. It is not a story of endless conflicts abroad but a potentially inspiring tale of serious economic, educational, energy and health-care mobilization at home. We don’t have the time or resources to go off on more quixotic military missions or to indulge in culture wars. (In China, they’re too busy exploiting scientific advances for competitive advantage to reopen settled debates about Darwin.) Americans must band together for change before the new century leaves us completely behind. The Obama campaign actually has plans, however imperfect or provisional, to set us on that path; the McCain campaign offers only disposable Band-Aids typified by the 'drill now' mantra that even McCain says will only have a 'psychological' effect on gas prices."
Back in 1992, then-candidate Bill Clinton had signs up in his campaign headquarters saying "It's the economy, stupid!" to keep him on track. Obama needs to take that lesson to heart and be more single-minded in his emphasis on the economy. There's nothing that helps a candidate from the opposing party more than a lousy economy in an election year.
Another thing Obama needs to remember is that this country is all about marketing. While many of us truly value Obama's ability to see both sides of an issue and thoughtfully discuss solutions, that needs to be done in back rooms with his advisers. To the press, he needs to seem resolute and have a clear concise message. Obama's brand until now has been "Change," and he's been good at marketing it. But as Rich points out, now he needs to come up with something more potent that will resonate with those who are disheartened by the direction the country has taken and have not yet heard either candidate articulate their concerns or offer solutions they can relate to. Economic policy details are fine on a website but not in a sound bite. His message needs to be clear, simple, memorable and strong.
From now until the election, Obama and Biden have to hammer away at John McCain, while simultaneously telling the American people how they will fix the mess we're in. It's a tall order, but they can do it. They have to. The future of the country is depending on it.