Biden, Ridge VP Faves
THE race for vice president in both parties is headed by Irish Americans at the time of writing. According to the MSNBC Hardball list, Senator Joe Biden on the Democratic side and Tom Ridge on the Republican side are the front-runners.
Interestingly both hail from Pennsylvania, a key state which has a huge Irish Catholic population which will be critical in November. In Ridge's case in particular, as a former Pennsylvania governor, his selection would undoubtedly put the state in play.
The fact that both are Irish Catholics is undoubtedly a factor in why they are among the favorites. Both men give the top of the ticket a chance to play to the ultimate swing vote these days in American elections, those Reagan Democrats who swing back and forth between the two parties and decide elections.
Though Biden represents Delaware, his family on his mother's side, the Finnegans, came from Ireland to settle in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
As he recounted in an interview with our sister publication Irish America, Biden had a great grandmother who spoke fluent Gaelic and translated all the letters from home which were written in Gaelic, after the family arrived here.
"My grandmother used to say, 'Remember Joey Biden, the best drop of blood in you is Irish,'" Biden recalled in the interview.
Politics runs in the family. Biden's great grandfather Edward Blewett was the first Irish Catholic state senator in the state and co-founder of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick around 1908.
Biden grew up in Scranton, which was overwhelmingly Irish. His Aunt Gertie filled his head with talk of Ireland growing up.
"Now you remember Joey about the Black and Tans," he recalled her saying. She could recite chapter and verse about them.
Biden stated that Wolfe Tone was his political hero, saying he gave his life for the principle of civil rights for all people.
Biden is also a committed Catholic. "I deeply believe in my religion" he told Irish America. "I believe that some real wisdom has accrued over 2,000 years of Catholicism. I never miss Mass."
How Biden Helps Obama
IF Biden were picked it would certainly take care of the Irish Catholic part of the puzzle for Barack Obama.
There has been criticism, as reported here last week, about Obama's lack of outreach to the community. Both Tom Hayden, an Obama supporter, and Professor John McCarthy, writing in the Irish Echo last week, were critical of his lack of ethnic outreach.
It is a refrain you will hear far and wide in the Irish American community. The presidential forum hosted by former New York State Assemblyman John Dearie has had great difficulty connecting with the Obama camp and securing a commitment form them to come to the forum. It is believed forum organizers are quite confident, however, that McCain will attend a session.
With his background Biden would certainly fit the bill, especially in a state like Pennsylvania where the Irish vote will be critical. No doubt Obama could also use his selection, if he decides to pick him, as a bridge to Catholics generally, the one group he is having major problems connecting with and who went heavily to Senator Hillary Clinton in the primaries.