BANGOR, Maine – Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Joe Biden as a running mate garnered largely positive reviews from members of Maine’s Democratic Party and other state political observers Saturday.
After weeks of anticipation, many Democrats sounded relieved that Obama had finally ended the nonstop speculation about his vice presidential pick. Democrats predicted Biden, a longtime senator from Delaware, would bolster some of the thin areas of Obama’s resume. –
“I’m certainly glad the decision was made and I’m very happy with it,” said Jim Martin, chairman of the Penobscot County Democratic Committee.
Martin acknowledged he was one of the people who were on the fence leading up to the Maine caucuses about the best presidential nominee. But in the end, Martin went with Obama because of the candidate’s ability to bring more people into the fold.
Likewise, Martin said, Biden will help build broader support for the ticket among working- and middle-class voters as well as those who were concerned about Obama’s relative lack of foreign policy experience.
Rep. Tom Allen called the Obama-Biden team “a great blend of youth and experience.” Allen, who was in Bangor for the American Folk Festival, said Biden brings decades of experience in international politics and a firm understanding of the complexities surrounding all of the world’s political hot spots.
Allen predicted the two men can help rebuild respect for the U.S. among people around the world.
“Joe Biden represents real change from the foreign policy of the Bush-Cheney administration,” said Allen, who is challenging Republican Sen. Susan Collins this November.
Allen also was scheduled to visit the farmers market in Orono on Saturday morning and the Get ‘Er Done raceway in Skowhegan on Saturday afternnon.
Gov. John Baldacci, who was preparing Saturday to head to the Democratic National Convention in Denver as a superdelegate from Maine, also singled out Biden’s experience in world politics.
“Senator Biden is an excellent choice who brings a tremendous amount of foreign-policy experience to the ticket,” Baldacci said in a statement. “He is a forceful personality and an enthusiastic campaigner. The two will make a strong team.”
While Maine’s party faithful seemed largely pleased with the choice, Biden’s name was less familiar to some members of the general public attending the folk festival along the Bangor Waterfront. Several people said they were unfamiliar with Biden, who has served in the U.S. Senate for more than 35 years, while others said they still didn’t know enough about the potential VP to have an opinion.
A few loyal Democrats said they would have preferred another running mate.
Chace Jackson, a 17-year-old high school senior and ardent Obama supporter, said he is confident Biden would do a good job. But Jackson said he would have preferred Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to Biden.
Jackson, whose father, Troy, represents Allagash in the Maine Legislature, said he believed Clinton could have helped Obama build support among white, middle-class voters while Richardson would have been popular among the increasingly important Hispanic voting block.
“I’m just worried we’re not going to keep this momentum going,” said Jackson, who was giving presentations on Allagash folk history at the festival.
University of Maine political science professor Mark Brewer predicted that the Biden selection will play much the same among voters in Maine as in the rest of the country. But he said Biden’s working-class appeal and strong relationship with unions will play well in such key states as Pennsylvania and Ohio. Biden was also born in Pennsylvania and still has close ties there.
Brewer said he believes Obama “did the safe thing” by going with the political veteran rather than a Washington outsider.
“I really think it is a good pick for Obama,” said Brewer. “I also think it puts a little pressure on McCain to match that pick.”
The leader of Maine’s Republican Party, meanwhile, described both Obama and Biden as liberals who voted for large tax increases and who oppose expanded oil drilling in U.S. coastal waters.
“Barack Obama’s politics of ‘change’ era is over now that he’s chosen longtime Washington insider Joe Biden as his running mate,” Mark Ellis, Maine GOP chairman, said in a statement.
“With softening poll numbers and questions swirling about whether Obama has enough experience, his choice of a Beltway veteran reflects concern even within Obama’s own campaign about whether he’s ready to be president.”