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'Regular Joe' plays a key White House role

As vice president, Biden is yin to Obama’s yang. But he’s definitely no Cheney.

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All this time together has solidified their relationship, administration officials say. Biden is “a peer, not a staffer,” says one.

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Biden also has a weekly breakfast with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a date they keep religiously.

As for Biden’s relationships with his former colleagues in the Senate, it’s always tough for former members to remain a true member of the club once they’ve left. But the White House credits Biden with helping to get three critical Republican senators – Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine – to vote for Obama’s economic stimulus plan in February.

Biden is also close to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The two men traveled to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq not long before the inauguration, and speak well of each other, even if they differ on policy. Biden also famously delivered the eulogy at the funeral of conservative Sen. Strom Thurmond (R) of South Carolina six years ago.

“Historically, one of his strengths has been working well with people,” says Goldstein. “Given some of the people the president has brought in, it could be another strength he brings to the table.”

Biden also brings his Roman Catholic working-class roots to the mix – a boyhood spent in Scranton, Pa., before the family moved to Delaware when hard times hit.

By the time Biden was ready for high school, the family could afford the elite Archmere Academy. But even if Biden comes across at times more as Country Club Joe than a Regular Joe, he is still a favorite of organized labor – and Obama’s political advisers view him as an emissary to blue-collar America.

The key to Biden’s success, though, hinges on his relationship with Obama. Perhaps the best indication yet that they’re settling in came at the Gridiron dinner, where he felt comfortable enough to razz the boss. Obama “can’t be here tonight,” Biden said, “because he’s getting ready for Easter.” He lowers his voice to a whisper: “He thinks it’s about him.”

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