(OCALA, FLA.) - As the candidates enter the final week of the campaign season, Joe Biden has come to solidify his role on the trail for the Obama campaign.
While the overused political parlance of "attack dog" is one that may seem lowly and ill-fitting for Biden, suggesting his snipes at the McCain campaign came from a disengaged, Pavlovian mindset, there is another that the campaign openly provides.
"He's the Defender-in-Chief," said spokesperson David Wade.
As Wade explains, it was Biden himself who voluntarily stood up to shield Obama from attacks by the McCain campaign, adding that the last two vice presidential nominees, who Wade worked with first hand, did not uphold the same aggressiveness Biden has shown in deflecting the attacks hailed on the Democratic candidate for the presidency.
Still, Biden's national attention has been minimal compared to the other three candidates on a national level. Yet he makes headlines in the local media nearly everywhere he campaigns.
Last week in Seattle, where Biden attracted a crowd of 12,000 people - his largest to date - the next day the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a front page story, headlined "Biden speech draws thousands to Cheney Stadium" with a photo of Biden supporters holding a sign that read, "Luv Ya, Joe!"
Wade calls it "a tale of two medias," insisting that while Biden has little presence in national headlines, he carries weight as a figure when campaigning locally.
"Every study you look at shows that people trust their local media more than they do with the national media," argues Wade.
"He might not be in the national spotlight too often, if you look at the local papers, you'll see headlines like 'Biden Runs Up Against McCain On Economy' in New Hampshire," said Wade last month.
While he hasn't made himself available to his traveling press corps in nearly two months, with the exception of commenting on the latest Philadelphia Phillies score, Biden has nonetheless deterred any falling in poll numbers throughout the states he has visited most.
Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, all battleground states where he has visited more than any other in the country, show Obama leading in polls.
The passion Biden exudes in his speeches, denouncing the policies and tactics of the rival ticket, comes from the same heart and mind that provides the "ill-chosen" words and "rhetorical flourishes," as they are defended as being, that have set the feet at Chicago headquarters on fire – tap dancing out the flames of political fodder.
When he defended the character of Hillary Clinton to a supporter who insulted her at a New Hampshire town hall in September, he went so far as to say she might have made a better vice-president than himself – a job he openly admits he did not want.
For reporters who witnessed the exchange, it appeared Biden was standing up for Clinton, and no where have we seen that she ever thanked him publically for it. In the following cascade of criticism that ensued from the McCain campaign, it was never acknowledged, of course, that Biden was zealously lauding a fellow Democrat who he believed had every capability of holding a high office as he did.
Biden uses his power as a senior senator from the state of Delaware to muffle as best he can the attacks of McCain, who he speaks of informally as "John" who he calls a genuine friend.
Referring to the economy recently in Commerce City, Colorado, Biden said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we need a package, it's no longer a partisan issue, except when it comes to John McCain. He's the only one that remains the odd man out. John said today I'm told, I'm paraphrasing, John said we have to wait and see. How many more economic casualties do we have to wait and see before he's ready to act?"
And while many are quick to point out Biden's "gaffes" - the statements he unintentionally leaves to be politically construed – some of his fellow Delawareans, even those who have not been supported by Biden in the past, are willing to let a majority of them go.
"Joe Biden wrote me a letter thirty years ago," said one, a businessman from Wilmington. "I was back from the military and I waited a year too long to ask for money to go to college. I wrote to everyone, asking them what I could do, and they all told me they would work on it, that they'd get in touch. But Biden hand-wrote me a letter, saying I had waited too long and there was nothing at this point he could do without changing the law. And though I didn't like his answer, I respected that he told me the truth."
"No matter what he might say," said the man. "I know he can sometimes, as they say, put his foot in his mouth. But he's been around a long time, and we know he does it because he's trying to be honest. He talks like we do, and if it gets him into trouble once in a while, at least I know he's trying to say what he really means."