Posted: April 13, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

More than one Biden has been campaigning in Iowa. When U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. could not be two places at once a couple of weekends ago, he had a political doppelganger willing to fill in.

Iowa, like Delaware, was double-teamed by Joseph Bidens, the second one being Roman numeral III, the attorney general better known as Beau.

Whatever Beau Biden learned from his own campaign stops in places like Lewes or Dover or Wilmington, he took out to Iowa City and Cedar Rapids to appear at county political meetings, where Democratic voters were making up their minds about his father and the other candidates competing in the Iowa caucuses in the opening event of the presidential calendar in January.

As surrogates go, Biden is not exactly the same sort of draw as Bill Clinton. Still they do have something in common -- the need to monitor their exposure. Bill Clinton had better not take away from Hillary Clinton, and Biden's campaigning had better not take away from his crime-fighting. Certainly with not even four months in office.

"My priorities are my family and my job. When the campaign asks me and I'm able to, I'll help out," Biden said.

Biden's excursion was a quick turnaround on the weekend of March 31-April 1. He described his stump speech as an explanation of why his father is the most qualified to be president -- not only because of what he has done and what he intends to do, but also because of the way he has handled himself in adversity.

To make the last point, Biden said he tells family stories about the car crash that killed his mother and baby sister in 1972 and also about his father's life-threatening experience with brain aneurysms in 1988. He said he quotes what his grandfather told his father and his father told him.

It is this. "It's not about how many times you're knocked down, it's how quickly you get up," Beau Biden said, adding, "That's the essence of who we are as a country."

The speech may be a little too apt, because Joe Biden's campaign can use an uplifting story. While polls show Democrats John Edwards and Hillary Clinton fighting for the lead in Iowa with Barack Obama in pursuit, Joe Biden is idling in single digits. In first-quarter campaign finance reports, Biden collected about one-tenth as much as Clinton and Obama, who both topped $25 million.

Joe Biden did lead one list. By late March, he had missed more roll calls than any other Senate Democrat running for president by skipping 32 out of 114 votes, according to the New York Times.

John McCain on the Republican side missed the most of all the presidential candidates in the Senate with 36 no-votes. Clinton had the fewest absences for roll calls with two. Obama had three.

Biden's Senate office pleaded for perspective. It issued this statement: "Sen. Biden has cast more than 12,000 votes in his 34-year Senate career, and he is proud of his legislative record. He continues to serve his Delaware constituents and has assured Senate leadership he will not miss votes where the outcome hangs in the balance."

Joe Biden can have his son substitute for him in Iowa, but not in the Senate, or at least not yet. Someday he is expected to try, but it will take a permission slip from the voters.