In the continuing drama that is the Obama presidency, Biden often appears as comic relief. He's the zany neighbor, the adorable uncle. As a result, his presidential ambitions, which burn brightly even today, have mostly been laughed off. Somehow, the sitting vice president of the United States, the former chairman of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, a man who's on a nickname basis with many of the world's most powerful leaders, is seen in many quarters as lacking the gravitas to be president.
Yet just a few days before he was giving dating advice on C-SPAN2, Biden again proved himself perhaps the most effective member of the Obama administration. He reprised his role as the White House closer, the guy who can cut a deal with the Republicans after everyone else has failed. In the end, Biden got Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to strike a deal that the White House was happy with. That's something neither Obama nor Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had achieved. And it wasn't the first time. Biden also helped close the 2011 deal that lifted the debt ceiling and the 2010 deal that extended the Bush tax cuts in return for fresh stimulus.
Biden's skills as a campaigner are also considerable. According to Nielsen, his speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention won better television ratings than the addresses of either Bill Clinton or Obama (or Republicans Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., for that matter). His debate performance against Ryan bucked up anxious Democrats and arguably stanched the bleeding from Obama's hapless initial appearance against Romney.
As a policy maker, Biden's reputation is more mixed. Those who've worked closely with him describe a dedicated workhorse eager to master details. Unlike Obama, however, who grasps policy minutiae instantly, Biden doesn't naturally think in charts and tables. At times, Biden goes with his gut rather than the evidence, a tendency that can lead him to embrace bad policy that sounds good. On the other hand, he is also known for choosing some of the best and most substantive staff members in Washington. A politician allergic to policy doesn't surround himself with the wonky likes of Ted Kaufman, Ron Klain, Jared Bernstein and Bruce Reed.