Democratic running mates Barack Obama and Joe Biden appeared together for the first time today before a cheering crowd of an estimated 35,000 supporters gathered in Springfield, Ill., where Obama began his presidential run more than 19 months ago.
"For months, I've searched for a leader to finish this journey alongside me," Obama said. "Today, I have come back to Springfield to tell you that I've found that leader – a man with a distinguished record and a fundamental decency – Joe Biden."
The first term senator praised his more experienced colleague, for his personal fortitude after tragedy and hardship -- and for his foreign policy accomplishments.
"Joe Biden is what so many others pretend to be – a statesman with sound judgment who doesn't have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong," Obama said, introducing his running mate.
Appearing jacketless in the warm August afternoon sun, Biden and Obama talked about their shared visions and their different backgrounds.
"Barack and I come from very different places but we share a common story, an American story," Biden said. "He was a son of a single mom, a single mom who had to struggle to support her son and her kids. ... I was a different. I was an Iirish Catholic kid from Scranton [Pennsylvania] with a father who, like many of you struggled in tough economic times."
Biden immediately began the traditional work of a vice president, serving as the attack dog for the ticket. He hit their Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for being out of touch with Americans' economic experience, an area on which McCain made himself vulnerable this week when he could not answer an interviewer's question about how many homes he and his wife own.
"He'll have to figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at," Biden quipped to the appreciative and applauding crowd, which was peppered with newly printed Obama-Biden signs.
"John McCain, and the press knows this, is a friend of mine. He has served in the Senate for 35 years and he wants to do right by America," Biden said, but he then criticized McCain, who he repeatedly called by his first name, for supporting President Bush's policies "95 percent of the time."
Biden, 65, brings immediate heft and foreign policy credentials to a ticket topped by the 47-year-old Obama. The Delaware Democrat first won his job in the Senate more than 35 years ago -- when Obama was only 11 years old -- and has been re-elected five times since.
He's chaired both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Judiciary Committee, and raised his profile recently by traveling on a fact-finding mission to war-torn Georgia, where he called for increased U.S. aid to the country and for peacekeeping forces.
The trip underscored his vast foreign policy experience -- something that is lacking from Obama's resume. Biden is also thought to be someone who could hold his own during a vice presidential debate.
McCain called Biden today to offer him congratulations and to pass the same from his wife, Cindy. The two men have served together on opposite sides of the aisle in the Senate for years.
After news of the pick leaked to the media late Friday night and early this morning, the Obama campaign sent an e-mail and text message to supporters shortly after 3 a.m. ET, reading in part: "I have some important news that I want to make official. I've chosen Joe Biden to be my running mate."