Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama introduced Senator Joe Biden as his running mate Saturday. They spoke at a rally in Springfield, Illinois, two days before the Democratic National Convention. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.
Barack Obama went before a cheering crowd of thousands in his home state and praised his vice presidential candidate as a "leader who is ready to step in and be President." "Joe Biden is what so many others pretend to be: a statesman with sound judgment, who does not have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong."
Obama, at age 47, is a relative newcomer to national politics, with less than four years in the Senate. His Republican opponent, Arizona Senator John McCain, who turns 72 on Friday has argued that Obama lacks experience in foreign policy and national security matters.
Biden has represented the small Eastern state of Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years, and heads the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee. Obama highlighted that experience in his speech.
"He looked [former Yugoslav leader] Slobodan Milosevic in the eye and called him a war criminal, and then helped shaped policies that would end the killing in the Balkans and bring Milosevic to justice. Joe Biden passed laws to lock down chemical weapons, and led the push to bring Europe's newest democracies into NATO. Over the last eight years he has been a powerful critic of the catastrophic Bush-McCain foreign policy," he said.
Minutes into Biden's speech, he contrasted McCain's admission earlier in the week that he was not sure how many homes he owns with the plight of working-class Americans sitting at their kitchen tables and worrying about their financial future.
"That's not a worry John McCain has to worry about. It's a pretty hard experience. He will have to figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at," he said.
Biden also emphasized his working-class roots, trying to appeal to a group of voters whose support Obama has struggled to attract.
"I'm here for the cops [police officers] and the firefighters, the teachers and the line workers, the folks whose lives are the measure of whether the American Dream endures. Ladies and gentlemen, this is no ordinary time. This is no ordinary election," he said.
And Biden acknowledged McCain's military service as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, but said Obama would be a better leader.
"These times call for a total change in Washington's world view. These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader," he said.
Obama's choice of Biden to be his running mate was announced early Saturday morning, in a text message to supporters.
Saturday's rally was the only joint appearance for Obama and Biden before the Democratic convention begins on Monday.
McCain has not chosen a running mate, but is said to be considering former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. The Republican convention starts September 1.