Barack Obama selected Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware late Friday night to be his vice presidential running mate, according to a Democratic official, balancing his ticket with an older congressional veteran well-versed in foreign policy and defense issues.
Biden, 65, has twice sought the White House, and is a Catholic with blue-collar roots, a generally liberal voting record and a reputation as a long-winded orator.
Across more than 30 years in the Senate, he has served at various times not only as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee but also as head of the Judiciary Committee, with its jurisdiction over anti-crime legislation, Supreme Court nominees and Constitutional issues.
In selecting Biden, Obama passed over several other potential running mates, none more prominent than former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, his tenacious rival in dozens of primaries and caucuses.
The official who spoke did so on condition of anonymity, preferring not to pre-empt a text-message announcement the Obama campaign promised for Saturday morning.
Obama's campaign arranged a debut for the newly minted ticket on Saturday outside the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.
Hundreds of miles to the west, carpenters, electricians, sound stage gurus and others transformed the Pepsi Center in Denver into a made-for-television convention venue.
Tucked away in one corner were thousands of lightweight rolled cardboard tubes, ready-made handles for signs bearing the names of the Democratic ticket — once the identity of Obama's running mate was known.
While Obama decided against adding Clinton to his ticket, he has gone to great lengths to gain the confidence of her primary voters, agreeing to allow her name to be placed in nomination at the convention and permitting a roll call vote that threatens to expose lingering divisions within the party.
Biden slowly emerged as Obama's choice across a long day and night of political suspense as other contenders gradually fell away.
First Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine let it be known that he had been ruled out. Then came word that Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana had also been passed over.
Several aides to Clinton said the Obama campaign had never requested financial or other records from her.
Other finalists in the veep sweepstakes were Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Texas Rep. Chet Edwards.
Among those on the short list, Biden brought the most experience in defense or foreign policy — areas in which Obama is rated relatively poorly in the polls compared with Republican Sen. John McCain.
While the war in Iraq has been supplanted as the campaign's top issues by the economy in recent months, the recent Russian invasion of Georgia has returned foreign policy to the forefront.
In addition to foreign policy experience, Biden, a native of Scranton, Pa., has working-class roots that could benefit Obama, who lost the blue-collar vote to Clinton during their competition for the presidential nomination.
Biden was elected to the Senate at the age of 29 in 1973.
He spent the day at his home in Delaware with friends and family. The normally loquacious lawmaker maintained a low profile as associates said they believed — but did not know — he would be tapped. They added they had been asked to stand by in case their help was needed.
No sooner had word spread of his selection than McCain's campaign unleashed its first attack. Spokesman Ben Porritt said in a statement that Biden had "denounced Barack Obama's poor foreign policy judgment and has strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quickly realizing — that Barack Obama is not ready to be president."
As evidence, Republicans cited an ABC interview from August 2007, in which Biden said he would stand by an earlier statement that Obama was not ready to serve as president.
Biden is seeking a new Senate term in the fall. there was no immediate word whether he intended to change plans as he reaches for national office.
Biden dropped out of the 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination after a poor finish in the Iowa caucuses, but not before he talked dismissively of joining someone else's ticket.
"I am not running for vice president," he said in a Fox interview. "I would not accept it if anyone offered it to me. The fact of the matter is I'd rather stay as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee than be vice president."
It was his second try for the White House. The first ended badly in 1988 when he was caught lifting lines from a speech by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.
In the decades since, he become a power in the Senate, presiding over confirmation proceedings for Supreme Court nominees as well as convening hearings to criticize President Bush's handling of the Iraq War.
Biden voted to authorize the war, but long ago became one of the Senate's surest critics of the conflict.
Obama worked to keep his choice secret, although he addressed the issue broadly during the day in an interview.
"Obviously, the most important question is: Is this person ready to be president?" Obama told "The Early Show" on CBS. Second, he said, was: "Can this person help me govern? Are they going to be an effective partner in creating the kind of economic opportunity here at home and guiding us through some dangerous waters internationally?"
And, he added: "I want somebody who is going to be able to challenge my thinking and not simply be a yes person when it comes to policymaking.
The Obama campaign went public with the official announcement of the selection of Biden posted to the campaign website at 3 am this morning, Saturday August 23, 2008.
The text and email messages to Obama supporters went out over the wire shortly after. Text of the message from Obama follows:
I have some important news that I want to make official.
I've chosen Joe Biden to be my running mate.
Joe and I will appear for the first time as running mates this
afternoon in Springfield, Illinois -- the same place this campaign
began more than 19 months ago.
I'm excited about hitting the campaign trail with Joe, but the two of
us can't do this alone. We need your help to keep building this
movement for change.
Please let Joe know that you're glad he's part of our team. Share
your personal welcome note and we'll make sure he gets it:
Thanks for your support,
P.S. -- Make sure to turn on your TV at 2:00 p.m. Central Time to join
us or watch online at http://www.BarackObama.com."