3 a.m. Call: Why Obama Picked Biden

Aug 23, 2008 7:59am

ABC News’ Jennifer Parker, Ed O’Keefe, and Theresa Cook Report: Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., joins the Obama presidential ticket with an official event in Springfield, Ill., just 12 hours after media reports and a text message delivered the news.

"I think they were struggling between choosing a candidate would represent what Barack Obama represents: change. Maybe that’s somebody like Tim Kaine of Virginia and somebody who represents — is a known quantity, who does have that kind of national security experience would be a reassurance," ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos said of the Biden VP nominee pick.

The long-awaited text message announcing Obama-Biden ’08 arrived in cell phones and inboxes just after 3 a.m. ET on Saturday. The 3 a.m. timing may evoke memories of an attack ad run by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., questioning whether Obama would be ready to lead in the event of a 3 a.m. phone call.

In the end however, Obama supporters got a 3 a.m. cell phone text message and e-mail about Biden, rather than Clinton.

Asked how they kept Obama’s vp pick a secret for almost a week and why they announced Obama’s V.P. pick in the dead of night, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" co-anchor Kate Snow, "We weren’t trying to hide anything. We’re pretty good at keeping secrets. … I have a feeling that most of the people who normally text were probably up and got it."

Media reports in the hours before the official announcement strongly hinted at the Obama pick: A private plane was tracked flying from Chicago’s Midway airport to New Castle, Del., and the Secret Service had been dispatched to protect Biden, the six-term senator.  In the early morning hours, those hints were confirmed prior to the Obama camp’s text message.

Biden had been on Obama’s short list, but had cryptically told reporters earlier in the week, "I’m not the guy."

So why did Obama, who is running on a theme of change, chose the Biden, the experienced Washington hand?

"Over the course of the process, they became convinced, Sen. Obama became convinced, that they needed a candidate who would reassure voters on that support, someone who that could count on, who was a solid, known quantity," Stephanopoulos told "GMA" on Saturday.

Reaction from political pundits is mixed and the McCain campaign pounced on its new rivals, immediately releasing an ad using Biden’s own words against his new running mate.

"What does Barack Obama’s running mate say about Barack Obama?" the ad opens, with images of Biden and Obama, before a clip of ABC News’ Democratic debate on Aug. 19, 2007, hosted by Stephanopoulos on a special edition of "This Week."

"You said, ‘I think he can be ready, but right now, I don’t think he is.  The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training,’" Stephanopoulos says in the ad’s debate clip.

"I think I stand by that statement," Biden replies.

Asked Saturday on "GMA" about the impact of the Republican attack ad, Stephanopoulos said, "I think that’s the best they can do — Sen. Biden and a lot of other Democrats questioning Sen. Obama’s experience. Clearly, Sen. Clinton did that, of course, in the primary."

Stephanopoulos added, "I actually asked about that exchange when he was on my show, "This Week," in May and [Biden] was very blunt in his response. He said that Barack Obama has learned a hell of a lot, and he went on to detail how Obama has grown over the course of the campaign, praised his judgment.

I think you’ll see … Sen. McCain is trying to drive a wedge between Obama and Biden," Stephanopoulos said. "But one of the reasons I think Obama decided to go with Biden in the end is not only because he has experience but is because he really can be a political gut-biter and is a strong debater. Over the course of the debates during the primary, he was often the winner of the debates.

"He has served with John McCain for an awful long time, and I think the Obama team believes that Joe Biden will have the ability to get under John McCain’s skin over the course of this campaign and to really be very forceful," Stephanopoulos concluded.

Activity continued at a steady pace outside the Biden home in Delaware prior to the candidate’s departure for the 3 p.m. ET event in Springfield, Ill. 

As for the next vice presidential selection, the pick of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is expected as early as next Friday following the Democratic National Convention in Denver and prior to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

"I think John McCain … has to figure out, kind of: Does he want a reinforcing choice, someone like a Joe Lieberman who has national security experience, or does he want have someone who compliments his strengths, maybe who has more experience on the economy, maybe who is part of a different generation?" Stephanopoulos said on "GMA." "That would lead perhaps to Mitt Romney, [who has] strong economic credentials, or maybe the governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, who’s under 50 and represents the next generation of Republican leaders."

The potential V.P. contenders who were not chosen by Obama released statements of congratulations to Biden on Saturday.

"Joe Biden is an outstanding public servant with deep experience and a fighting spirit. These qualities will make him a great asset in the White House and on the campaign trail this fall," said Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. "It was an honor to be considered."

First-time Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, also short-listed for the Democratic vice presidential nomination, said he is "excited" for Biden and praised him as "a tremendous leader and a great complement to Sen. Obama and his candidacy."

Another candidate shaved from the shortlist, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said Biden’s "extensive experience dealing with foreign policy issues are an asset in these complicated times."

Even McCain contacted Biden, placing "a brief call to offer congratulations to the senator and his wife," a McCain aide told ABC News.

For more ABC News veepstakes coverage, click HERE.

ABC News’ Michael S. James, Matt Jaffe, Jen Duck, Kate McCarthy, Lisa Chinn, Sara Just, Hohn Berman, Rick Klein and Jake Tapper contributed to this report.

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