Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.

The buzz over who Sen. Barack Obama would choose as his running mate ended today when  news leaked from sources in the campaign before the presumptive Democratic nominee announced to supporters via text message his selection of Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware.

Biden, in his sixth Senate term, sought his party’s presidential nomination this year but dropped out after the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3. He also ran for president in 1988 but withdrew after he was accused of plagiarizing a speech by then-British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.

Biden, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has been touted as a potential Obama running mate because of his foreign policy experience. But while Obama has made his opposition to the war in Iraq a central part of his campaign, Biden voted in October 2002 for the final resolution authorizing military action.

Biden’s son, Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III – Delaware’s attorney general – will be deployed in October to Iraq with his Army National Guard.

“I don’t want him going,” Biden told an Iowa state fair crowd a year ago. “But I don’t want my grandsons or granddaughters going back in 15 years. So how we leave makes a big difference.”

Prior to the announcement, Obama spelled out his three main requirements for a running mate. The VP nominee, he said, had to be prepared to be president, able to help him govern and willing to challenge his thinking.

Biden will join him in Illinois today for a massive rally to kick off a pre-convention tour of battleground states.

In an interview that aired this morning on “The Early Show” on CBS, Obama said, “Obviously, the most important question is: Is this person ready to be president? Can this person help me govern? Are they going to be an effective partner in creating the kind of economic opportunity here at home and guiding us through some dangerous waters internationally?”

Obama added he also wanted “somebody who is going to be able to challenge my thinking and not simply be a ‘yes person’ when it comes to policymaking.”

Biden has a long history of making statements that have required him to explain and apologize.

Last year, when competing for the presidential nomination, he said Obama was “not yet ready” to be president. He was forced to apologize for describing Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” a statement that drew accusations of racial insensitivity.

While campaigning in New Hampshire, Biden, speaking to an Indian-American supporter, remarked “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

Among the known finalists, along with Biden, were Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Rep. Chet Edwards was mentioned today, but analysts saw it as a gesture to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wanted Obama to seriously consider a Democratic Congress member.

The presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, has not decided on a running mate, according to GOP officials.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are likely to be at the top of the list. Riskier picks, such as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and Sen. Joe Lieberman, also have been mentioned.

McCain is expected to make his announcement after the Democratic National Convention ends Thursday.

The Arizona senator plans pre-convention rallies in the swing states of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Biden is up for re-election to the Senate this year and, according to Delaware election law, can remain on the ballot and run for both seats. If he wins both seats, he can take the Senate oath and then resign. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat, would then appoint his replacement who would serve until 2010.


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