Biden prepares to step into light

The vice presidential nominee you aren't hearing so much about, Democrat Joe Biden, is planning a more prominent role to help validate Barack Obama among white working-class voters and criticize the Republican rival he's long called a friend.

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is soaking up the campaign spotlight with magazine covers and joint rallies with John McCain that draw thousands, while Biden has had a more traditional role of second fiddle to the man at the top of the ticket. But the campaign envisions a new role for its No. 2 in helping make the closing argument against McCain.

Biden privately told reporters traveling with him last week that Palin was a smart political choice who has changed the race but is not prepared to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Biden's focus will be on McCain, not Palin, campaign officials say. They are calculating that the election will be determined on voters' feelings about Obama and McCain. Biden is in a unique position to help convince voters that McCain is the wrong choice, they say, because of a relationship that goes back even beyond their 22 years of working together in the Senate.

In the late 1970s, when Biden was a young senator and McCain was the Senate naval liaison, the two traveled the world on Foreign Relations Committee fact-finding trips. They became friends, as did their families.

Biden's argument will be that he knows McCain well enough to say that even though he's right on character, he's wrong on the issues, advisers said.

He's scheduled to give two speeches framing the race before the presidential debates get under way – one on domestic policy Monday in Flat Rock, Mich., and another on national security Sept. 22 in Baltimore.

Biden's other responsibilities will include helping validate Obama with communities that have been skeptical of his candidacy to varying degrees – Jewish voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton's backers, union members and other middle-class voters.

He canceled plans to appear Saturday with Obama in New Hampshire because of Hurricane Ike, the campaign said. The two met Thursday in New York, and a campaign official said Biden told Obama they must keep the focus on McCain and the economy.