Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, on Saturday announced Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., as his vice-presidential running mate. With all eyes on the election season, local Democratic party chairman Randy Basham said he feels good about Obama's pick - comparing the ticket to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. "You had Kennedy, young, and he took the experienced senator from Texas and put him on a ticket with him because of his experience and his past history of cutting the deal," Basham said. During election primary season, Obama's opponent, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, favored statistically better with blue-collar states and won states like Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. Many still say Obama can't reach those voters, and some expected him to pick Clinton as his running mate to help attract those voters. In light of the announcement Clinton wasn't even on Obama's short list of possible running mates, Basham said Biden was the next best thing. "Everybody in southern Ohio and Appalachia was wanting him to select Hillary, and if it couldn't be Hillary, then Biden was the closest thing to her caliber of communicating with the blue-collar worker," Basham said. Clinton issued a statement Saturday, praising Obama's decision and calling Biden "an exceptionally strong, experienced leader and devoted public servant." Some of her supporters were less charitable. "It's a total diss to Sen. Clinton, in my opinion," said Diane Mantouvalos, of Miami. "It just speaks volumes about how Barack Obama doesn't stand for anything." Basham also defended attacks of Biden being a Washington insider who contradicts Obama's message of change. "He worked in Washington, but he never became a Washington insider. He dealt there everyday and then he took a train back to the real society of working people, and that's where he spent his time," Basham said. "He could cut the deal between the two parties whenever something needed to be done. He was the closer." With the Democratic National Convention happening this week in Denver, Colo. - where Obama is expected to officially be offered the candidacy - Basham insists that Biden will help strengthen the ticket and unify the party. Biden was himself an early candidate for president in this election. He announced his candidacy in January 2007, and dropped out in January 2008, after gaining only 1 percent at the Iowa Caucus. "Biden could have stayed in the Senate and just coasted there, but he stepped up to the plate knowing this country needed change," Basham said.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this article. RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.