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Combating Obama-Biden: A Republican View

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Now that Barack Obama has picked Joe Biden as his running mate, we wanted to find out what Republicans think of his choice. Ed Rollins is a veteran Republican strategist who has worked on many political campaigns, most recently that of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He joins us by phone. Welcome to the program.

Mr. ED ROLLINS (Political Strategist, Republican Party): Thank you very much. How are you?

HANSEN: Very well. What do you think of Senator Biden as Obama's choice for VP?

Mr. ROLLINS: You know, the only candidate who was going to really help him to fill in the blanks and the lack of support would have been Hillary Clinton, and obviously he made a choice not to do that. So I think Biden is as good a choice as anybody else. You know, the key rule here is you pick someone who doesn't hurt you and can help you a little, and certainly Biden helps a little bit, maybe a lot. He's got the foreign policy credential.

You know, they both have very similar liberal voting records, and certainly the state that Senator Biden represents, Delaware, is pretty much a Democratic state these days anyway. So it's not - it's not like it helps there, but it does help on the substance side.

HANSEN: Well, you talked about his strengths: the foreign policy background, the Washington experience. What do you consider to be his weaknesses?

Mr. ROLLINS: Well, I think his weakness is he's not used to being number two. He's been chairman of a major Senate committee for a long, long time. He's wanted to be president himself. He's run twice, in '88 and again this time. So for him to basically take a back position, that will be interesting to see how he performs.

HANSEN: In what ways do you think that this choice might hurt Obama?

Mr. ROLLINS: Well, I think to a certain extent Biden has had the reputation of some gaffes along the way. And unfortunately in a presidential campaign, gaffes get highlighted. You know, I think the biggest thing is just simply - you know, he's been a part of the process for a long time, and Obama had promised to be a candidate of change. And, you know, it's a little hard to attack the Washington system when you have one of the most senior members of the Senate who's been there as long as McCain, or longer than McCain. So it's not quite the contrast that you might have had with someone new or someone younger.

HANSEN: What effect might this have on John McCain's choice for vice president?

Mr. ROLLINS: You know, my sense is he better have someone who's articulate. So if all of a sudden you have someone that doesn't know foreign policy, can't basically hold their own in a debate, it might not be as effective. You know, you can't have someone who doesn't know Washington or doesn't know public policy.

HANSEN: Care to speculate on who John McCain might pick?

Mr. ROLLINS: You know, my sense is it seems to be coming more and more to look like Romney. Romney would be viewed by many as the substantive choice. The key thing is he just can't do anything to alienate his base. In an election as close as this election is that if you pick someone like Ridge, or Lieberman, or others who have been talked about, you would really antagonize the Christian right.

HANSEN: You were the national campaign director for Ronald Reagan in 1984. Given your experience, what advice would you give John McCain on how to compete with this Democratic ticket? In other words, what would your strategy be?

Mr. ROLLINS: My strategy is that he's got to move away from Bush. I mean, the Democrats clearly want to tie him to Bush, and make it all about Bush. And even though the country may not be tired of the policies as much as they are of the president, and I - so it's all, you got to make it about leadership. You know, it's not Joe Biden that's going to sit across the table from Putin. It's Barack Obama. And I think the key thing here is not to get drawn into contrasting McCain and Biden. That's not the contest. The contest is Barack Obama and John McCain.

HANSEN: Ed Rollins is a longtime Republican campaign consultant and strategist. Thank you.

Mr. ROLLINS: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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