CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Vice President Biden steps into a familiar role Thursday night – as the avuncular everyman appealing to voters in ways the more polished President Obama cannot.
After first lady Michelle Obama personalized the president and former President Bill Clinton made a case for him as the best hope for the middle class, Biden is expected to deliver a speech at the Democratic National Convention that will by turns attack Republicans, champion Obama and attempt to appeal to blue-collar America.
Top campaign staffers told Fox News that Biden on Thursday night will be a “character witness” to the tough decisions the president made -- including the ones to take down Usama bin Laden and bail out the U.S. auto industry.
His most common go-to stump line is: “Usama bid Laden is dead and GM is alive.”
“This will be much more partisan,” Democratic strategist David Heller said. “He will lay into Republicans and take their case before the people. The president will make a case for remaining as president.”
Biden being Biden, there’s always the chance for an off-script moment Thursday night that could play into the GOP attacks. That Biden makes frequents gaffes is well-chronicled, and they have occasionally knocked the Obama campaign off message.
In May, Biden said on TV that he supports same-sex marriage, forcing Obama to announce his support earlier than he wanted. And last month, he said at a Virginia rally attended by many black supporters that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s fiscal policies would allow the banking industry to “put you all back in chains.”
The typical speaking slot for a vice president, or vice presidential nominee, is the night before the presidential nominee’s address. That slot, though, went this year to Clinton, who described Obama as “cool on the outside but burning for American on the inside.”
Still, Biden – a former senator who was born in Scranton, Pa., and is a graduate of Syracuse University Law School – remains a vital part of the campaign, able to connect with Americans who have similar working-class roots.
“There was never any doubt in anybody’s mind that Biden would be the vice presidential nominee,” Heller said. “The only people who raised the specter (of a different running mate) were reporters looking for something to write about.”
Still, the mistakes and veering off course appears to have cost him. A recent Pew Research Center-Washington Post survey in which voters were asked to give their one-word impression of Biden frequently elicited terms like “idiot,” ‘’incompetent” and “clown.”