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Joe Biden Keeps Fighting

Political Players is a weekly conversation with the leaders, consultants, and activists who are shaping American politics. This week, CBS News' Brian Goldsmith talked with Delaware Sen. Joe Biden about his candidacy for president, his competitors for the Democratic nomination and the agenda driving his long-shot campaign.

CBSNews.com: Let's start with Iowa. You're spending most of this month there. If you fail to finish in the top three in Iowa, do you think your campaign's over?

Joe Biden: Well, I think it's probably the top four, if it's a close fourth. I think that, as you know better than I do, Iowa and New Hampshire are about expectations. But clearly, if I'm in the top three, I'm in the game. And depending on how the others do, if I'm a close fourth, I'm still in the game, in my view. Whereas others--because of fair or unfair expectations--if they were to finish third or fourth, they're probably gone.

CBSNews.com: You are in the top three in terms of endorsements in Iowa. And one of the things that the people who endorse you keep saying is that you're the most qualified. Do you think that the other candidates--Senator Clinton, Senator Obama--are not qualified to be president?

Joe Biden: No, no, I don't think that at all. But what I do think is that both my Senate record and not just my experience, but my track record, and my life experiences, I think make me the best equipped to deal with the two most important issues facing the country today. One is foreign policy, i.e. the war in Iraq and terrorism. And second is the plight of the middle class which I probably understand better than any of the top people running.

CBSNews.com: Do you think it's legitimate for Senator Clinton to talk about her experience as First Lady as relevant to preparing herself to become president?

Joe Biden: Well, I think it is legitimate, but while Mrs. Clinton was meeting socially with the prime minister of a country, I was sitting down and negotiating with them, or the foreign minister. So I do think the experience is relevant, and that she has a sense of what's going on internationally. And she knows how people react. But I think my experience--I know, I don't think--I know it's considerably deeper and more relevant.

CBSNews.com: One of Governor's Richardson's supporters in South Carolina switched to your campaign recently, because he thinks your position on Iraq is more responsible than Bill Richardson's. Do you think Bill Richardson--by saying, all of the troops out now--is demagoguing the issue?

Joe Biden: Well, I wouldn't say he's demagoguing the issue, but he's clearly changing his position. He initially started off months ago endorsing the Biden plan. He went from there to saying that, you know, we could have all troops out in three months to now acknowledging it'd take a year or two. I mean, so, I don't think Bill has, I'm not sure if Bill has thought it through. I think he should go back and read the statements he's made over the last six months, and they're very, very much at odds with themselves.

CBSNews.com: You were very close to Senator Kerry during his campaign. And you watched that up close. What lessons do you draw from his failure to be elected?

Joe Biden: The single most important test a candidate in the Democratic Party has to pass is the Commander-In-Chief test, not the president test. Who can be the Commander-In-Chief? And by Commander-In-Chief, what I mean by that is that people are looking for--and John unfairly didn't make the test--but people are looking for someone to do two things, in my view.

One is not merely to end the war in Iraq--which is critical--but also then to protect their interests, because unlike when I was a 29 year old kid running for the Senate against the war in Vietnam, everyone knew once we ended the war in Vietnam, there were no more shoes to drop.

But I ask audiences constantly, if I can end the war tomorrow in the best way possible, how many of you feel secure about our place in the Middle East, about what's going on in Iran, about the Korean peninsula, about China? So, they know they're looking for someone, in my view, with the depth and breadth of knowledge in these foreign policy and defense and terrorism issues who they can trust to take them through what they know is going be a pretty difficult decade.