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Biden VS. Glamourpuss


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By Perry Bacon, Jr.

AKRON, Ohio -- As he might put, Sen. Joe Biden is literally enjoying running for vice president, and he's not just saying that as an applause line.

While Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain are avoiding interviews with the press corps that follows them and Biden's running mate Sen. Barack Obama projects such an aura of cool liberal columnists are begging him to get more animated, the Delaware senator is at times gleefully expansive.

"My staff says we have time for one more question, so let's take three more," he declared at a recent rally.

He stays behind at each event to shake hands and takes pictures with anyone who wants, and he's brought his personal touch on the road -- close-talking, back-tapping and kissing older women on the cheek.

He occasionally tosses a football on the tarmac before he takes off to his next city. His speeches include loads of references to his days playing high school football, quotes from his mother and father and his favorite terms: "literally" (usually when he means "figuratively"), "ladies and gentlemen" and "I mean this sincerely."

And he's brought along a bunch of long-time aides on the road, including his niece Missy, who is running his reelection campaign for the Senate, where Biden has token opposition.

Biden seems to enjoy having journalists following him around, if only to have more people listen to his running commentary on whatever springs to his mind. A CBS reporter following Biden around estimated Biden has done 80 interviews since he was named vice president, compared to two by Palin.

But most of these interviews are with local television stations, as campaign aides are wary of shifting attention from what he says on stage. He holds few formal press conferences with the reporters on the campaign trail.

But Biden loves to chat. As he toured the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, here today, two executives of the Hall talked to him about their favorite players. Biden declared at different times his love for the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and the Colts, at least before they moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis.

Then, as he was discussing how much bigger football players are than they used to be, he approached two reporters who were standing nearby taking notes.

"You look liked you played some, man," he said to one of the reporters.

As the reporter said "no, I didn't," the candidate moved closer, tapped the reporter's upper chest and said "you need to work on your pecs." The reporters laughed.

Biden then started talking about how he stayed up late to watch the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game on Monday night, even though he had to do a bunch of interviews the next day on morning news shows.

"So I said, 'I've got a big day tomorrow,' I said, 'I've got to go to sleep.' I got in the room, started searching the channels and they were replaying the Eagles game and I watched the whole damn game," he said. "I don't know what time it was, 2 o'clock in the morning. I'm bleary-eyed and thinking where the heck's my speech."

Biden has had to shift from his usual ebullient tone in his speeches. When he was first picked, he said he would be a different kind of vice-presidential nominee.

"I'm not going to be an attack dog," Biden told USA Today his first week on the campaign trail, noting that he and Obama had agreed that the Delaware senator would focus on being a positive advocate for Obama. "That was part of the deal. I'm not going to fool with my brand."

But as Obama's campaign has shifted towards a more negative tone against McCain, Biden's tone has become louder and more fiery. His long rifts about the chemistry between his wife Jill and Michelle Obama and his excitement about being on the ticket have been replaced over the last few days with an at times careful reading of a detailed list of quotes from McCain and his advisers to cast them as "out of touch."

He pronounced himself "angry" at how the Republicans have much damaged the country in his mind.

But on the trail most of the time, Biden appears anything but angry. One of longtime aides said Biden had always dreamed of traveling with an entourage and huge crowds, but assumed that opportunity was over after his failed presidential run this year.

Instead, the Delaware senator is still campaigning -- and sharing his every thought.

After he talked about staying up late to watch the Eagles while at the football museum, he had more to add.

He approached the reporters and, in a low voice, said, "I'm not allowed to say this, but I also like the Giants."

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