Biden known as a blunt inquisitor

At the time, he was juggling his campaign with leading the charge against Judge Robert Bork, President Reagan's Supreme Court nominee, and he didn't prepare for the Iowa State Fair, thinking he could talk his way through the event. "I confess to a certain amount of arrogance," he wrote.

He regrets not telling reporters right then that he had made a mistake, in omitting Kinnock's name. He never imagined the omission would lead to the end of his campaign or that his character would be questioned.

"When I stopped trying to explain to everybody and thought it through, the blame fell totally on me," he wrote.

Biden's second wife, Jill, was the only person who knew how devastated he was, he wrote. But his perspective changed after he suffered near-fatal brain aneurysms. Out of the Senate for seven months, he learned to be in less of a hurry, he wrote.

"The presidency, for instance, could wait," he wrote. "There would be another time if I really wanted it."

Vice presidency

Dreams of the presidency mostly expired earlier this year when Biden was crushed in Iowa. He dropped out of the campaign before New Hampshire, but delayed an endorsement until after Hillary Rodham Clinton bowed out. At the time, Biden was sharing his foreign policy expertise with Clinton and Obama.

In the race for the vice presidency, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell gave Biden a boost, saying the Delaware senator's foreign policy experience and Scranton, Pa., roots made him the strongest running mate.

Before Biden dropped out of the presidential race, Florida Democrat Bill Nelson said that of all the candidates, Biden is "the most prepared to be president of the United States."

California Democrat Dianne Feinstein called him "one of the brightest lights we have."

Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, a Republican who serves on the Judiciary Committee with Biden and often rides Amtrak with him to Washington, also offered praise.

"No one on the Democratic side knows more about foreign policy than Sen. Biden," Specter said. "He's been an articulate spokesman on the subject. He also knows about domestic policy. He's been a leader on crime control."

Connecting with voters

Apart from his national stature, Biden has demonstrated his personal charm and ability to connect one-on-one with Delaware voters by winning six Senate races. He is up for re-election this November.

Earlier this year in Washington, Biden met with an Ohio couple whose Marine son was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Rosemary Palmer and Paul Schroeder have formed a support group for families of fallen soldiers. "We are glad someone is pushing back at Bush. I'm certain he will have a hand at finding a solution," Schroeder said.

Biden strikes others the wrong way.

Jim Wilson, a Vermont resident who watched some of Biden's hearings while visiting the capital, said Biden simply "talks too much" and might be better suited to influencing policy as a lawmaker.

Biden once challenged a New Hampshire voter to an IQ test. His self-serving questioning of Supreme Court nominees Bork and Samuel Alito drew darts. He made disparaging remarks about Princeton University. There was his statement last summer that in Delaware, "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."

Biden knows he's being watched, especially by the news media, "or a blogger with a camera phone."

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