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President Obama's campaign manager explains the decision to pick Joe Biden as running mate

Published October 29, 2009 10:10PM (EDT)

On Thursday, Time Magazine gave the world its first glimpse of "The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory," the forthcoming book written by David Plouffe, President Obama's campaign manager. The whole thing should be read with a somewhat skeptical eye -- this is no bitter tell-all, but the account of someone still very much on the inside. But Plouffe did let the mask slip a little when it came to discussing how Joe Biden was chosen as Obama's running mate:

What surprised me at [our first meeting to discuss the vice presidency] was that Obama was clearly thinking more seriously about picking Hillary Clinton than Ax and I had realized .... At our next meeting, we narrowed the list down to six. Barack continued to be intrigued by Hillary. "I still think Hillary has a lot of what I am looking for in a VP," he said to us. "Smarts, discipline, steadfastness. I think Bill may be too big a complication. If I picked her, my concern is that there would be more than two of us in the relationship." ....

Shortly before he took off for Hawaii and his much needed vacation, Obama asked Axelrod and me to meet with the three finalists. [We] pieced together a schedule that had us departing Chicago at 5:30 a.m. for Wilmington, Del., to meet with Biden; then on to West Virginia, where Bayh was vacationing with his family; and then to Virginia to meet with Kaine.

The [first] meeting started with Biden launching into a nearly 20-minute monologue that ranged from the strength of our campaign in Iowa ("I literally wouldn't have run if I knew the steamroller you guys would put together"); to his evolving views of Obama ("I wasn't sure about him in the beginning of the campaign, but I am now"); why he didn't want to be VP ("The last thing I should do is VP; after 36 years of being the top dog, it will be hard to be No. 2"); why he was a good choice ("But I would be a good soldier and could provide real value, domestically and internationally"); and everything else under the sun. Ax and I couldn't get a word in edgewise.

It confirmed what we suspected: this dog could not be taught new tricks. But the conversation also confirmed our positive assumptions: his firm grasp of issues, his blue collar sensibilities and the fact that while he would readily accept the VP slot if offered, he was not pining for it.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton Joe Biden War Room