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Joe Biden Hits His Stride -- A Midterm Report Card With Q&A

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Despite the latest rumors of replacement on the 2012 ticket, Joe Biden is having the time of his life (check out new Twitter account @VP) -- and he's had a lot of times.

From working his Capitol Hill connections for multiple pieces of legislation to shepherding the stimulus package, visiting Iraq almost bi-monthly, serving as contrarian to US presence in Afghanistan and ensuring approval of the new START treaty and compromise for the tax package, Biden's value to the Obama administration has continued to rise, especially with the departure of the Congressionally connected Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff. His Capitol Hill negotiations proved key in averting the government shutdown in April and now his current marathon budget talks with Republican leaders could well be his greatest challenge as Vice President. But just as Vice President.

Elected Senator from Delaware at the age of 29, the charismatic politician drawing Kennedy comparisons saw his world fall apart when a car accident claimed the life of his wife and infant daughter and injured his two young sons. Urged by fellow senators who would become his family for life, Biden ultimately chose to stay and served for 36 years attaining a highly respected and powerful position in Washington while continuing to board an Amtrak train every night to journey home to his boys and eventually his second wife Jill and their daughter Ashley in Wilmington.

Despite two failed bids for the presidency and a near-fatal aneurysm, "Call Me Joe" Biden continued to live the life of a happy successful man when he was called upon by newly crowned democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to serve as his Vice President in 2008.

His response? "Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, Shermanesquely, no. No. No. ...I can absolutely say with certainty I would not be anybody's vice president. Period. End of story. Guaranteed. Will not do it."

Not so much.

Joe Biden found the chance to help elect this country's first African American president more compelling than his ego and prestigious senior status in the Senate and now two years in has been part of an administration that has often been both disciplined and creatively responsive -- with the vice president being the last guy in the room asking hard questions.

Any mid-term report card would also have to include gaffes like saying "this is a big f-ing deal" near on open mike during the televised celebration of the Obama health care package finally came to pass along with other over-enthusiastic quips that can be purchased at select checkout sites in bookstores in a collection called "Sh*t My Vice President Says".

One lengthy profile -- mostly favorable -- in The Atlantic called him "The Salesman" and The Onion has a mock slideshow of the shirtless vice president washing his Trans Am in front on the White House.

And of course there's the recurring SNL Joe Biden -- a blustery shaggy dog VP who is always trying to upstage a mortified President Obama.

As usual, Biden is weathering it all.

Huffington Post Senior Political Editor Howard Fineman has covered Joe Biden for more than 20 years. "I think he's found the job that suits him in ways that perhaps he didn't expect," say Fineman, "He's an important member of the team, an inside guy who has the confidence of the president." He adds, "Because he's Joe Biden, he can be like a car on an icy road, sometimes it's gonna slide a little, but to pursue the analogy, he knows how to keep the car in the garage if he has to."

More important, Fineman sees Biden as a man who is "profoundly grateful for everything he has. A lot of people in Washington are climbers and strivers who, by definition are perpetually unhappy with what they have. They want more power, more prominence, more attention, more air time or honorary degrees. Joe Biden doesn't seem to want anything. He worships the ground Jill Biden walks on and is so proud of his family. He's done a lot and achieved a lot and is utterly comfortable with who he is."

Adds the New York Times' John Broder, "He brings a joyfulness and exuberance to an administration that often seems to lack both...he shows that politics does not have to be merely a chore. It can be a way of connecting with people on an emotional and visceral level. And few in public life today do that as well as Joe Biden."

Recently departed chief of staff and long-time aide Ron Klain puts it this way. "What I wish everyone could see about Joe Biden is how he carries with him -- and takes to heart -- the people he meets as he travels around the country. It isn't just photo ops and fly bys for him. " he says, "There's the kid with a stutter in Tennessee whom the VP met and still sends notes of encouragement to, as he overcomes his challenge. There's the watermen in Louisiana he met, about whom he has pounded, pounded, pounded federal agencies to help. And the list goes on and on."

And Jay Carney, who served for the last two years as Biden's director of communications and is now White House spokesperson, recalls a recent meeting with the vice president and a group of younger staff members and interns. "He was describing the times we're living in and how the world is changing, how we all have this remarkable opportunity to help shape this period of change in a way that is good, for the United States and for the world," says Carney, "And he spoke with such incredible optimism and energy, and I remember thinking to myself: he's been doing this for a long time, and yet he's not cynical at all. He's here for all the right reasons."

I wrote an extensive profile of the new vice president elect for Washingtonian Magazine two years ago and caught up with him again in this month's July issue with some questions I submitted to get a read on the State of the Vice Presidency and how the Second Family has adjusted to life in Washington.

To find out how the Veep and Mrs. Biden spend their down time as well as his favorite restaurants, books and movies as well as his thoughts on President Obama take a look at this month's Washingtonian.