By Lynn Sweet, Abdon M. Pallasch, and Dave McKinney
Sun-Times Staff Reporters
DENVER - At 2 a.m. Chicago time, from a laptop in the "new media" office of Barack Obama's Michigan Avennue national campaign headquarters, the text message went out: Obama is tapping Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate. "Spread the Word," the dispatch concluded.
And with that click, Sprint reported a 255 percent increase in traffic on their Obama site.
Despite the historic nature of the text-messages to people around the country and the world, news of Obama's selection of Biden leaked to some mainstream reporters--CNN's John King got the scoop-- a few hours ahead of the announcement.
The freshly-minted Obama-Biden ticket debuts today at the place Obama started his campaign -- the Old State Capitol building in Springfield where Abraham Lincoln served.
The creation of a two-senator ticket -- the first since John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson 48 years ago -- was applauded by Democrats who hope that Biden can help Obama with Catholics, blue-collar voters, and spur turnout in his native state of Pennsylvania, a key battleground.
But by Friday Biden's name had surfaced as a leading contender and John McCain's camp was ready for him, releasing a commercial just hours after the announcement that uses Biden's own words to slam Obama's inexperience"
"I think he can be ready but right now, I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training," that ad shows Biden saying as he stood next to Obama in a Democratic primary debate. McCain's ad juxtaposes that against an old Biden quote about McCain, saying, "I would be honored to run with or against John McCain, because I think the country would be better off."
Democrats shrugged off the ad, saying Biden, 65, and the outspoken chairman of the senate's Foreign Relations Committee, will help the ticket by being serving the traditional role of attack dog.
"He's an advocate for Democratic principals. He's tough-minded on foreign policy and criminal justice. I give him two tumbs up," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.)
And McCain has changed his position on many issues since Biden offered the kind words about him, Obama backers said.
To counter the expected argument that Obama dilutes his message of change by tapping a decades-long Washington "insider," Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass noted this morning his nightly commute home to Delaware on Amtrak.
"He has decades of experience in Washington, yet, uniquely, he is not of Washington. He goes home to his family in Delaware every single night," she said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
The Obama campaign has already sent out the notice of Biden's impending schedule of travel to stump for Obama. The Obama campaign provides him a turn-key operation headed by former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Patty Solis Dolye, sister of Chicago Ald. Danny Solis (25th)
As Biden's name emerged late Friday/early Saturday morning, another fact emerged to wrankle supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Despite Obama's statement that Clinton would be on "anybody's shortlist" for vice-president, she apparently never made it onto his.
The Obama campaign never formally vetted her for vice-president, Politico.com reported.
But Clinton sent out a gracious statement Saturday, saying, "In naming my colleague and friend Senator Joe Biden to be the Vice Presidential nominee, Senator Obama has continued in the best traditions for the Vice Presidency by selecting an exceptionally strong, experienced leader and devoted public servant. Senator Biden will be a purposeful and dynamic Vice President who will help Senator Obama both win the Presidency and govern this great country."
CNN reports Biden got the word from Obama Thursday that was the choice.
Also expected to play a role in Biden's campaign will be Democratic strategist David Wilhelm, who advised Biden's 2008 presidential run.
Biden's role as attack dog becomes all the more important because Obama has discouraged the creation of "527s" -- traditionally the third parties that conduct attacks, - shielding the candidate from the sting of going negative. Obama had discouraged Democrats from forming these third-party groups whose message cannot be controlled. Republicans are using 527s, the nickname taked form how they are organized under the IRS.
Robert Gibbs said on ABC Saturday morning said Biden underscores another important aspect of Obama's campaign: "He has a record of working across party lines to get things done."
Biden has expertise on foreign affairs and travelled to the war-torn former Soviet Republic of Georgia last weekend. he also chaired the judiciary committee.