Biden's Georgia visit raises speculation about VP nod

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Senator Joe Biden (D-DE)
Image: United States Senate.
Ssolbergj & Pmx

Upon the request of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware made a visit to the Republic of Georgia, which is currently under siege by Russia. Biden is considered to be a top choice on Barack Obama's list for presidential running mates because of his foreign policy expertise and 35 years of experience in the United States Senate. His trip increased speculation about Obama's selection, although Biden stated that the aim of the trip is "to get the facts first-hand and to show [his] support for Georgia’s people and its democratically-elected government." Obama staffers confirmed that they had discussed the trip with Biden staffers before he left.

Biden met with President Saakashvili to discuss Georgia's situation, thereby allowing Biden to gather and transmit the information obtained during that meeting to the Senate as part of his duty as the Foreign Relations chairman. Georgia was invaded by Russia over the disputed territory of South Ossetia. The two nations signed a cease-fire and Russia has claimed that it has started to withdraw its troops to South Ossetia. Georgian and American officials have doubted this claim. So far in the armed conflict, 197 Georgian soldiers and 74 Russian soldiers have been reported dead. As many as 115,000 people have been displaced because of the fighting.

Biden ran for president of the United States of America in 1988 and again in 2008, but each time fell short of obtaining the Democratic Party nomination. In 1988 he was forced to withdraw his candidacy after claims of plagiarism and left the race in 2008 after unpromising results in the Iowa Caucus. Biden is among a list of possible Democratic vice-presidential candidates that includes Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana and former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia. The trip was seen as a boost to Biden's prospects as a vice-presidential candidate, accentuating his foreign policy credentials. Biden returned from the visit on August 18. He is scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention on August 27, the same day the vice-presidential nominee is scheduled to speak.

John McCain backers and possible Republican vice-presidential nominees Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman were expected to visit Georgia as well.