ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — I've recently spoken with two of the finalists for the role of Barack Obama's running-mate, and to two other sources who are close to the process.
My bottom line is this: Barring a big surprise or last-minute change of heart, the choice is likely to be Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
He is a lively and feisty if unpredictable campaigner with working-class roots and a street-level feel for the hot spots of the globe — which he can use to go toe-to-toe with Sen. John McCain.
"If I had to bet my life on it, I'd bet it is Joe," said one of the other contenders.
Said another, "Barack is moving toward a seasoned Beltway type, and that probably means Biden."
And a source personally close to Obama simply said "Biden makes the most sense."
One of the contenders also revealed a tidbit about timing. That person says Obama's camp wants to know how to get in touch on Thursday afternoon.
But back to Biden. Besides his experience, he brings other things to the table.
He is from a modest Catholic background in Scranton, Pa. He represents Delaware, but has long been a figure in Eastern Pennsylvania — a key swing state.
And he is a voluble and combative character, even with his ready smile.
"Joe won't be afraid to get in McCain's face, which is what Obama needs," said one non-contender source.
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Others have pointed out to Obama that this is why Biden would be hard to control as vice president.
But maybe Obama has decided to worry about that later.
Biden's personal story is compelling. He lost his first wife in an auto accident and is devoted to his second, Jill — a lifelong teacher.
Biden makes sense for another reason: his son Joseph "Beau" Biden III, the attorney general of Delaware, is a captain in the state's National Guard. He's deploying Iraq in September — and could prove to be an invaluable personal link to the situation on the ground.
Biden has largely escaped any hint of scandal, personal or political, in a long career, even though he was forced to withdraw from the Democratic race in 1988 amid charges of plagiarism.
Those charges now seem sadly trivial given all that's happened since.
Another name on Obama's short list is Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.
Video: Biden on the vice presidency But unlike Biden, Bayh is known for his mild demeanor. In addition to his lack of evident fire, Bayh has another handicap — ongoing questions about his wife's business dealings.
Also in the running is Virginia govenor Tom Kaine. But he may fall short because of his lack of foreign policy experience.
Also vetted were Sen. Hillary Clinton and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
And who is the dark, dark horse in this Veepstakes? I think it's former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
But the spotlight keeps moving back to Biden.
With four decades in the Senate, he could be the perfect fit for Obama, the candidate who is often criticized for his relative lack of Washington experience.
Watch out for that silver tongue though — while his verbosity could prove powerful on the stump, it could be irritating everywhere else.
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