Barack Obama and Joe Biden: Colleagues and Friends

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "A Promised Land" by Barack Obama. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What was the relationship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden like? Why did Obama choose Biden for his Vice President?

Barack Obama and Joe Biden have become known for their friendly relationship and internet memes. But before Obama was even president, he had to choose his running mate carefully.

Read more about Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden: Partners in Governance

Before the Democratic National Convention which was set to begin in Denver on August 25, Barack would need to select his vice presidential nominee to serve as his running mate.

The first qualification, of course, was someone who Obama believed would be able to effectively carry out the duties of the vice presidency—and step into the role of president if need be. But he also wanted someone who might help assuage the concerns of some older, more conservative and traditionalist white voters about voting for a relatively inexperienced Black candidate. 

Indeed, Obama viewed the selection of the right running mate as an important part of helping white voters overcome the psychological hurdle of a Black man in the Oval Office.

Biden’s Strengths

The figure who became the strongest choice was the senior Senator from Delaware—Joseph R. Biden. In many ways, Joe Biden represented a strong contrast to Barack Obama. It made sense that Barack Obama and Joe Biden would work well together.

If Obama was a relative newcomer to national politics, Biden was a long-established figure, having first been elected to the Senate in 1972. Moreover, he was an old-school politician from working-class Irish-American roots in the industrial town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.  

Where Obama was cerebral, reserved, and cool, Biden was a warm, gregarious, hand-shaking, baby-kissing, backslapping kind of politician. Most importantly, however, Obama admired Biden’s intelligence, fierce work ethic, and loving heart. He knew that Biden had experienced near-unimaginable personal grief when his wife and daughter were killed in a road accident in December 1972, mere weeks before he first took office in the Senate.Biden had had the strength to recover from that awful loss—and the experience of it gave him a unique sense of empathy and perspective that was rare among career Washington insiders. When Biden accepted Obama’s offer to run with him, Obama was delighted—he knew he’d chosen someone who was fundamentally decent, honest, loyal, and, above all, qualified.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden: Colleagues and Friends

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Barack Obama's "A Promised Land" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full A Promised Land summary:

  • How Barack Obama went from relative obscurity to the first Black president
  • What principles guided his political leadership style
  • Why Obama retained an unshakable faith in the potential and promise of America

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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