Before being picked as Barack Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden was best known by American for commuting by train between Washington and Delaware and for his many, cringe-inducing verbal gaffes.
Despite being one of the longest serving members of the U.S. Senate, in 2008, Biden captured less than one per cent of popular support in the Democratic primary, and dropped out after the Iowa caucus.
When he joined the Obama ticket, his age and years of government service were intended to appeal to voters concerned about Obama’s lack of experience. Biden, they seemed to think, had the gravitas to balance out Obama’s youthful celebrity.
Now, four years later, the roles have switched. Biden has become the Obama administration’s great humanizer. Once thought embarrassing, his gaffes are now considered refreshing. As Washington becomes more scripted and reliant on political talking points, Biden says what he’s thinks.
While Obama was trying to drum up support for the stimulus bill, Biden was telling reporters that no matter what the government did, there was a “30 per cent chance they’d do it wrong.” Unhelpful though the comment may have been, America seemed to agree. While Obama walked the rhetorical line between compassion and personal freedom on behalf of his controversial healthcare bill, Biden signed the bill and declared it “a big f–king deal.” Two years later, Obamacare divides the country, and like the bill or not, few wouldn’t agree that it is, indeed, quite a big deal.
Biden’s awkward but endearing personality has become a punchline on multiple comedy shows and network sitcoms. On SNL, Joe Biden (played by Jason Sudeikis) can go toe to toe with Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin. On NBC’s Parks and Recreation, main character Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) says her ideal man has “the brains of George Clooney and the Body of Joe Biden.” Biden even made a cameo on Parks after the 2012 election.
“He’s kind of like America’s crazy uncle,” says David, a student from Utah. “I don’t want him to be president or anything, but he’s a good guy. He makes politics more fun.”