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Now It’s Biden Time in Denver

Party Expects Much From Pick

With his formal debut tonight in Denver as the Democratic nominee for vice president, Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) faces a tall order from Congressional colleagues who expect him to introduce himself to the American people, hit hard against Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), make a plea for party unity and lay out key elements of a prospective Obama-Biden platform.

Biden, a nearly four-decade veteran of the Senate and expert on foreign affairs, will take to the Democratic National Convention stage at Denver’s Pepsi Center to deliver the final headline speech before Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) accepts the Democratic nomination for president on Thursday. Before 4,200 Democratic delegates and thousands of onlookers, Biden will have the chance to prove his place as the No. 2 on the party’s ticket, by both attacking McCain’s credentials and shoring up Obama’s.

“He’s going to contrast the fact that John McCain voted consistently against middle-class families and with George Bush, not only generally but very specifically,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), whose home state has been hit hard by the country’s economic crisis. “He’s going to create contrasts. He’s been serving with John McCain. He knows John McCain. He can very effectively talk about why John McCain is more of the same.”

Expectations for Biden are high, especially on a night that features a highly anticipated speech by former President Bill Clinton — the second major speech from a Clinton in as many nights, and one sure to feed media chatter about ongoing tension between the Clinton and Obama camps.

Biden will also be sharing the stage tonight with 2004 Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), and two other one-time possibilities for vice president, Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

“He’s got a tough speech,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said. “Of the four speeches, [Clinton’s] has to be about our base and pulling together behind a great team, Biden’s has to be about why this team is better than John McCain’s vision for America. He has to show that he and Obama together are a powerful recipe for change in America.”

Obama’s selection of Biden as his vice president, which became official early Saturday morning, came after weeks of speculation over whether the junior Senator from Illinois would look to a seasoned establishment candidate or a new political face for his No. 2. As it turned out, Obama decided on the six-term Delaware Senator who unsuccessfully sought the 2008 nomination himself and, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is one of the Senate’s most notable national security voices.

Biden is expected to help balance Obama’s short political tenure with his lengthy one, while also helping to pad the presidential nominee’s résumé with his knowledge of military affairs, diplomacy and international relations. Despite his years on Capitol Hill, several Democrats said Biden remains relatively unknown outside the Beltway and will need to spend time tonight introducing himself to voters.

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