Biden stops at hometown train station

August 25, 2008 5:39:12 PM PDT
The Bush administration passed up a chance Monday to criticize Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic Party's would-be vice president. To the contrary, Biden won plaudits from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a spokesman for President Bush, who was vacationing at his Texas ranch here.

Talking to reporters while en route to the Middle East, Rice called the Delaware Democrat a "true patriot" and a "very fine statesman."

Then came the White House, which was pressed to respond to Rice's fond account of Biden, a foreign affairs veteran and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "He's done tremendous work over a long period," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "And I know he has been supportive of Secretary Rice's State Department."

Fratto also said the White House was happy for Biden and his family, given that being chosen to run on a national ticket is a "great honor."

In perspective, the spokesman quickly added, "I think Secretary Rice has made clear who she intends to vote for, and that will be Senator McCain and whomever he chooses to join him on the ticket."

There was also room for a little poke, too.

As the Democratic National Convention was preparing to open with a flourish, Fratto was asked if Bush would be watching. Fratto suggested the president, vacationing at his ranch, might have a higher priority: "I'm sure there's also a baseball game on tonight, too."

Arriving in Denver earlier Monday, Biden appeared at a downtown barbecue stand where he picked up five pulled-pork sandwiches to go.

The Democrats' vice presidential nominee-in-waiting stopped with his wife, Jill, and son Beau outside Boney's Smoke House Hickory Smoked Pit BBQ at a downtown pedestrian mall. The Delaware senator posed for pictures, shook hands and waved to several hundred people outside before placing his order and hopping back into his motorcade with his sandwiches in a brown paper bag.

It was his second unannounced appearance of the day among grassroots voters.

Before flying to Denver, Biden, his wife and their security detail a surprise appearance in Wilmington at the Amtrak station that he has used for years to commute to his day job in the U.S. Senate. He and his wife greeted vendors and travelers.

"These guys have been my family," said Biden, who has taken Amtrak during his 35 years in the Senate. After Senate sessions, Biden travels home almost every day to Wilmington on a train.

At the Denver barbecue house, Biden ignored questions from reporters about his past criticism of Obama and his praise for McCain.

"We're going to get some lunch," Biden told reporters.

Susan Rutt of Allentown, Pa., told Biden she was Pennsylvania president of the National Federation of Democratic Women - at which point he grabbed her hand, kissed it and declared, "Madame president."

Michele Bortner of York. Pa., had her picture taken with Biden.

"We consider him our third senator in Pennsylvania. He's been good to Pennsylvania," Bortner said. "I think he'll be good for the Obama ticket."

Earlier in Wilmington, Biden deflected all but one question from reporters - one about his Wednesday night Democratic convention speech, which he said "is all ready."

Jill Biden stopped at a newsstand in the train station and held up a Newsweek magazine with a cover photo of Obama and Biden for her husband to see.

"Obama looks good man. Obama looks good," Biden said.

Biden left the train station to catch a flight to Denver. Later Monday, he planned watch Michelle Obama's speech at the Pepsi Center.

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