THE BLOG
09/27/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

They Don't Know Joe: The Secret of Biden's Success in Delaware

The pundits and politicians who don't know Joe Biden have him all figured
out: He's brash. Outspoken. A gaffe machine. So they say.

People in Biden's home state of Delaware tell a different story: And it
begins and ends with how we elect our leaders.

Delaware is so small that high-priced consultants and big media buys are
not really that effective in elections. You just can't win without knocking
on a lot of doors. And when you do, you'd better be real.

That is how Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972.

No one gave him a chance. He was 29. His opponent was the most popular
and powerful politician in the state: three-term incumbent Republican Senator
Caleb Boggs.

Biden, his wife, and a whole flock of brothers, sisters and family members
hit the streets. I met Biden for the first time when he knocked on my door.

When Biden talks about people sitting at their kitchen tables, he is not
being metaphorical. He's has been to tens of thousands of kitchen tables
and living rooms. And that is no place for talking points and press releases
and clever answers that might satisfy a sound bite. When people ask a question,
you'd better answer it simply and directly or you simply will not last
as an elected official in this state.

After meeting Biden, I was not really sure he had much of a chance to win,
but like thousands of other folks in Delaware, I liked him enough to help
out by knocking on a few doors myself.

Biden's first Senate campaign drew record numbers of volunteers and people
at his rallies. He was Obama before Obama.

That is how he won: With direct, plain talk that connected to people at
their basic level. He was on the straight talk express long before McCain.

So when we hear that Biden said this or that and we are somehow supposed
to be taken aback, we are not. We do not play 'gotcha' media games with
people who have been to our homes.

Biden is not being outspoken. He is real. I'm one of those who think we
need a lot more of that.

When Barack Obama chose Biden as his running mate, we in Delaware were
proud. But not surprised. Whether having coffee at your kitchen table or
talking to thousands of folks off the cuff, we've seen first hand how good
he is at reaching, inspiring and motivating people.

He inspired me to run for office. And four years after I met Biden I was
elected to my first term in the Delaware State Senate, where I serve to
this day.

We in Delaware are amazed at Biden's experience in foreign affairs. Mostly
because we don't understand how he has time to return our phone calls and
take care of state business when he running around the world putting out
fires in Georgia and China and Bosnia. But we do understand how his colleagues
could count on him for the most demanding of topics.

He still loves to knock on doors -- and has done that with me in every one
of my ten elections to the State Senate. People come up to me all the time
and remind me that Biden and I had been to their house. Some as long as
30 years ago.

Everyone here smiles when we hear people say vice-presidential candidates
never make a difference in an election.

They just don't know Joe.