Is Joe Biden dragging Obama down?

With a new 'super PAC' ad that mocks Joe Biden for all manner of verbal slips, it’s almost as if Republicans are mirroring the way Democrats attacked Sarah Palin in 2008.

Steven Mantilla/The Register & Bee/AP
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Institute for Advanced Research and Learning in Danville, Va., Tuesday.

Is Joe Biden going to be a particular target for Republicans in the months leading up to the November presidential election? It sure looks that way at the moment.

Already this week, Team Romney has accused Mr. Biden of injecting race into the campaign, because he told a largely black audience that the GOP would “put y’all back in chains.” And on Friday, the "super PAC" American Crossroads is releasing an ad that mocks Biden for all manner of verbal slips, from the “chains” remark to his assertion that “jobs” is a three-letter word.

“Some people say Joe Biden should be dropped from Obama’s ticket, but we say Joe should stay,” says the narrator in a sarcastically earnest tone. “Joe Biden, America’s greatest vice president, when we need him most.”

Take the No. 2 person on a national ticket, highlight their gaffes and inapt word choices, and splash that against a background of photos in which they look goofy. Hmm. It’s almost as if Republicans are mirroring the way Democrats attacked Sarah Palin in 2008.

Conservatives are gleeful about this turn of events. Over at RedState, editor Erick Erickson judges the American Crossroads ad a home run.

“This is staggeringly awesome. Go give them some cash so they can get that ad up everywhere,” Mr. Erickson writes.

At HotAir, conservative Ed Morrissey mulls over a report that Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked to replace Biden on the ticket. He finds that questionable and then raises what he calls the rhetorical question that’s been on everyone’s minds this week. Or at least the mind of everyone who’s enthusiastic about the addition of Rep. Paul Ryan to Mitt Romney’s ticket.

Can you imagine the Ryan-Biden debate coming up? Unfortunately for the White House, everyone can imagine what the outcome will be, at least,” he writes.

Therein may be the impetus of the current bash-Biden boomlet. Four years ago when the talkative then-senator was plucked from the Foreign Relations Committee to run as VP, many Democrats were worried about his tendency to produce gaffes in bunches, like grapes. But then John McCain tapped Ms. Palin, and the rest is history. The media focused on Palin’s perceived faults. Biden looked statesmanlike by comparison.

Aaron Blake makes this point on The Washington Post’s political blog The Fix today.

“In large part thanks to Palin, the debate over Biden’s utility on the Democratic ticket is four years late,” writes Mr. Blake.

In 2012, Representative Ryan promises to be a different sort of veep opponent. His plan for Medicare might poll poorly, but nobody’s charging that Ryan is inarticulate. Next to him Biden appears older (because he is), chattier (he is that also), and perhaps more prone to say stuff he wouldn’t if he thought about it just a second longer.

But here’s another question: Does that matter? Biden’s not going anywhere. In the modern era, sitting VPs just don’t get replaced. In part, that’s because such a heave-ho would make the incumbent US chief executive look desperate. In part, it’s because VP candidates just don’t have that much effect on a ticket’s chances.

Seen in that context, Republican attacks on Biden may just be attempts to sow dissension in the opposition ranks.

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