BY ABDON M. PALLASCH
Sun-Times Political Reporter
CHICAGO--Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden assured a crowd of donors in Lincoln Park Tuesday night that he would handle himself just fine in his debate with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Democratic Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has even agreed to spend several days with him as Palin's stand-in for him to practice, he said. But he said "we'll see" whether he takes her up on her offer.
He's not aiming to take any cheap shots, he said.
"Folks, look, I know what she's going to try to do: she's going to try to make it as personal as she can. She's going to take a lot of straight lefts and jabs at me. She's going to try to get me to respond. She's going to try to get me to respond in a personal way," Biden said. "That's not my style. I'm not going to do it."
Biden told the heavy-hitter donors in backyards of Barbara Goodman Manilow and Steve Koch that he doesn't care about the passing controversies like whether Palin sold her predecessor's plane or not or whether or when she supported or opposed the "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska.
"What I care about is: What in God's name is she going to do -- along with John McCain -- about the thousands of people who don't have health care?" Biden asked. He'll ask her about "The superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down...John McCain wants to know where Bin Ladin and the gates of Hell are? I can tell him where. That's where Al Quaida is. That's where Bin Ladin is. It's not in the country of Iraq."
Four of the six questions Biden fielded Tuesday night were from donors worried about Palin's popularity which has boosted the Republican ticket's poll numbers over the Democrats. Biden urged the donors to "have patience" and Palin's balloon would return to Earth once he or the press forced her to talk about who she would appoint to the Supreme Court or her views on global warming. He told them not to worry about a poll that showed white women defecting from Barack Obama to John McCain because of Palin.
"The press is exaggerating how white women are all of a sudden for Sarah Palin," Biden said. "We still have more women voting for Barack Obama than for John McCain...Part of the problem is in white suburbia, as well as...among ethnic groups, among, particularly Jews and Catholics, there is a lack of ease about Barack. They don't know him. One of my major jobs is to go out and talk about what I know -- they know me -- talk about who I am, why I support Barack."
Part of Biden's job Tuesday night was to make nice to the campaign's most generous donors, who they now have to convince to give just as much for the general election as they did for the primary.
"We're like poor relatives," Biden conceded. "We keep showing up."
Introducing Biden, John Levi thanked Biden for confirming his father, Edward Levi as former President Gerald Ford's Attorney General early in Biden's long senate career. Then, Levi added, speaking to the donors: "For the past 20 months, many of you have been digging in your wallets far deeper than you expected ... and now you're going to do it again, we need your help now more than ever."
Manilow said she saw the candidates‚ choice of vice-presidents as metaphors for their style.
"One took his time, picked someone he knew, whose ideology he respected...someone who is a great statesman," Manilow said. "The other chose someone he had met once for political gain."
Biden defended Palin against commentators who made an issue of her daughter's pregnancy and who argued that she should stay home with her children instead of running for vice-president.
"All it did was generate overwhelming sympathy (for Palin) and quite frankly it offended me," that anyone even raised the issues, he said. "Tell that to my wife. Tell that to a modern woman."