(WILMINGTON, DEL.) - Since he broke away from appearances with Barack Obama a couple of weeks ago and began soloing on the campaign trail, it's hard to say the country has paid a fair amount of attention to Joe Biden.
When he canceled two days of events in Texas and New Hampshire and spent the day at home because of Hurricane Ike, a majority of people didn't notice.
CBS's Craig Ferguson joked in one of his late night monologues that Biden, for lack of a more descriptive term, is coming to be known only as the most "Bideny" of the candidates.
But despite a dozen national reporters riding along on his campaign plane, blogging about the issues and positions Biden discusses in his speeches, filing reports after every event, and feeding hours of tape back to New York and Washington, it appears Biden's delivery of a Obama-Biden vision has, overall, been overlooked in the past few weeks.
In fact, during the week of Sept. 1, Sarah Palin was a "dominant or significant" part of 60% of campaign-related news stories that week, according to the Pew Research Center (Palin was named McCain's running mate on Aug. 29). Biden came in at 2%.
Fate appears to be against him as well. Even when one of the cable networks tried to broadcast a live feed of Biden's Green Bay, Wisconsin town hall meeting on a slow news day last week, they couldn't because the audio failed.
Biden, who is known for being on the talkative side, has only had any real national attention steer his way when he says something baffling or odd that Republicans can use against him. They've been tallying up his gaffes, such as his impromptu declaration that Hillary Clinton might be more qualified than he is for the vice presidency.
At an event in Charlotte, N.C., Biden said his grandkids having a slumber party with Obama's daughters was a metaphor for what Americans want. "They want a sleepover with people they like!"
Even his own barber back in Wilmington, Delaware said that while Biden sometimes chooses his words poorly or puts his foot in his mouth, it's "only because he talks like an average guy and not like Washington politician."
The barber that adds people in Delaware, after knowing Biden and re-electing him for the last 35 years as their senator, are "just used to it."
But for all of the speaking Biden does and length of his delivery, some might think he'd be a bigger part of the conversation.
In Columbia, Missouri, Biden spent over an hour detailing how the Obama-Biden plan would cut taxes, he says, for 95% of Americans. But the buzz generated by the event was when Biden absent-mindedly asked a wheelchair bound state senator to stand up. The video was even broadcast on a celebrity website and its syndicated television show, TMZ.com, known for primarily for airing video of Lindsay Lohan as she dodges paparazzi at the airport.
On the road, Biden is passionate, sentimental, and verbose. Often stringing together several trains of thought and weaving a stream of consciousness into words, he doesn't often speak in sound bites. He has tendency to stop in the middle of sentences, filling his speech with Socratic questioning, and endlessly tacking on information what had once been a single idea. But he's not so much pedantic as he is just plain long-winded.
When a crowd rises to their feet in applause as they think Biden is finishing, he at times has continued on while people have stopped clapping and look at each other as if to say, "Should I sit down? Is he still talking? I thought it was over?" Attend a Biden rally and its likely you'll hear the phrase "in conclusion" more than once – always trying to get one more thought in.
When asked last week "Do you still support a tripartite in Iraq?" Biden replied, "Yeah, and it's not a tripartite" and launched into a thirteen minute breakdown of the political and military situation in Iraq and the surrounding area, making parallels to Bosnia and Milosevic, and asking reporters if they wanted to take a shot at predicting the outcome.
"You're going to have, as I said, elections in [Iraqi] provinces," explained Biden.
"Supposedly, and by the way, they're supposed to take place next month. I've been predicting they're not likely to take place next month. But maybe they will. If they will, do you think the people down in Basra are going to vote for a government in Basra any different than an all Shia government in Basra? What do you think? Want to take any bets, anyone?"
For all of his tough talk, Biden can be very sentimental as well. He doesn't mind and even acknowledges children who wander around restlessly during his speeches. He holds his wife close by the curve of her hip as he walks her through a diner in Philadelphia.
"Stay away from my éclairs." he says, half-jokingly. Unlike some politicians who prefer just the firm handshake, Biden puts his arms around voters for long periods of time, kisses the cheeks of women, and whispers personal messages into their ears.
He draws the same crowd size as McCain did before Palin joined the ticket, with around several hundred to a thousand people showing up at most events.
But while Biden's coverage has been considerably less than the superstar spotlight on Palin, Biden's people and the Obama campaign give the impression -- at least in public -- that they don't mind at all.
"It's been three candidates that you've been talking about, but the story, it's really about the tale of two medias, if you look at the local press," says David Wade, the press secretary for Sen. Biden, and insists that while his boss might not be on cable news or in the Wall Street Journal as often as the other three candidates in this election, people are getting the Obama-Biden message delivered from their small-town newspapers and from familiar anchors.
"Every study you find will tell that most voters trust most their local media. It's just a fact," said Wade.
Wade insists that Biden's visits are generating neighborhood headlines, saying "when certain people were obsessed with Sarah Palin, the headlines out of New Hampshire were something like 'Biden runs into McCain on economy'. Same thing in Missouri."
"We've been thrilled with the impact he has had delivering the message in a place where voters are actually going to make up their minds."