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Tale Of The Tape: The VP And His Challenger

Filed by KOSU News in Politics.
August 14, 2012

Who Is He?

Joe Biden: Biden, whose own presidential aspirations sputtered in 1988 and again in 2008, brought to the Democratic ticket foreign policy chops and an ability to relate to working-class voters. In his 36 years representing Delaware in the U.S. Senate, he became known as more pragmatist than ideologue. He has also made a somewhat dubious name for himself because of his volubility and not infrequent verbal stumbles. But he has parlayed those potential liabilities into an effective, if occasionally unpredictable, campaign trail presence.

Paul Ryan: Ryan, the Wisconsin native picked by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney as his running mate, brings conservative star power to the ticket. One of the self-named “Young Guns” of the U.S. House, Ryan is best known for congressional budgets he has authored. His proposals would overhaul the tax code, increase defense spending, defund much of President Obama’s health care legislation and remake Medicare into a voucherlike program. His prominence in the size-of-government debate has reassured conservatives skeptical of Romney’s bona fides and also given Democrats an opportunity to portray the ticket as unfriendly to Americans of modest or little means.


Biden: 69; born Joseph Robinette Biden Jr, in Scranton, Pa.

Ryan: 42; born Paul Davis Ryan, in Janesville, Wis.


Biden: Spouse, Jill Biden, college professor; children, Beau, Hunter and Naomi Biden (with late wife, Neilia Hunter), and Naomi (with Jill Biden).

Ryan: Spouse, Janna Ryan, tax lawyer and stay-at-home mother; children, Elizabeth, Charles and Samuel.


Biden: Law degree, Syracuse University, 1968; bachelor’s, University of Delaware, 1965

Ryan: Bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics, Miami University of Ohio, 1992.


Biden: Roman Catholic

Ryan: Roman Catholic


Biden: Makes much of his Irish heritage, including frequent references to “Grandpa Finnegan,” born in Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. Secret Service code name at start of administration: “Celtic.”

Ryan: His father was of Irish heritage; his mother has German and some English forebears.


Biden: Biden’s reported personal net worth, according to financial disclosures required of members of the executive branch, ranges from negative $1.2 million to positive $190,993. He has assets ranging from $233,000 to $776,000, but his liabilities include a mortgage of between $500,000 and $1 million, which includes his principal residence and a rental property, and several loans or lines of credit.

Ryan: Ryan’s personal worth ranges from $2 million to $7.7 million, largely as a result of inheritance his wife recently received after her mother died. In June, Ryan amended his 2011 personal financial disclosure to reflect his wife’s one-third interest in her late mother’s trust. Her share in the blind trust is valued between $1 million and $5 million, according to the amendment submitted by Ryan. His only liability is a mortgage of between $250,000 and $500,000.


Biden: Life-threatening brain aneurysm that required surgery in 1988, after which he suffered a pulmonary embolism. He was given last rites by a priest. A second aneurysm was repaired that year; he has reportedly had no recurrences.

Ryan: Touts his fitness and low body fat as the result of a strenuous daily workout that combines strength and cardio training.

Personal Setback

Biden: His wife and 1-year-old daughter were killed and both sons injured in a 1972 car crash shortly after his first election to the U.S. Senate. They were Christmas tree shopping; Biden was not in the car. Democratic leaders persuaded him not to resign his seat to care for his family. He was sworn in at his sons’ hospital bedside. The devastating loss, he wrote in his book, Promises to Keep, filled him with rage and made him question his faith. “All my life, I’d been taught about our benevolent God. … Well, I didn’t want to hear anything about a merciful God. … I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry.”

Ryan: When he was 16, Ryan, the youngest of four children, found his 55-year-old father dead in bed of a heart attack. He has pointed to the early death of his father, a lawyer, as key to the formation of his political and personal tenets. His father’s Social Security survivor benefits helped put him through college.



Biden: U.S. senator from Delaware, 1973-2009 (Judiciary Committee chairman, 1987-1995; Foreign Relations Committee chairman, 2007-2009); New Castle, Del., County Council, 1970-1972; Attorney and public defender, Wilmington, Del., 1969-1972.

Ryan: U.S. representative from Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District since 1999 (House Budget Committee chairman since 2011); legislative director for GOP Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, 1995-1997; speechwriter and volunteer for the conservative think tank Empower America; congressional aide to GOP Sen. Bob Kasten of Wisconsin, 1992.

Proudest Moments In Public Life

Biden: Lists his advocacy of U.S. military involvement in the Balkans in the 1990s, and the 1994 passage of the Violence Against Women Act, which he drafted.

Ryan: Becoming chairman of the House Budget Committee in January 2011 over more senior members, and later House passage of his budget plan.

Surprising Political Ally

Biden: The late conservative Republican Sens. Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, with whom he worked closely as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Ryan: Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who has worked with Ryan on a proposal to overhaul Medicare.

Political Setback

Biden: His run for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination was destroyed by allegations of plagiarism when operatives for opponent Michael Dukakis sent media an attack video showing that Biden appropriated without credit parts of a stump speech from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.

Ryan: The failure of his ongoing efforts to privatize Social Security, starting in 2005 when he enlisted President George W. Bush to advocate for the change. Republicans lost big in midterm elections the following year.


Biden: Difficult to pick just a few, from a man who has inspired headlines like this, from The Daily Beast: “The Never-Ending List of Vice President Joe Biden’s Verbal Gaffes.”

–This is a big *bleeping* deal. – to President Obama, at 2009 signing of health care legislation, caught on a hot microphone.–A man I’m proud to call my friend. A man who will be the next president of the United States — Barack America! – 2008, first joint rally with Obama after being named to the ticket.–I mean, you got the first sorta mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man. – interview with New York Observer during 2007 Democratic primary season.

Ryan: Ryan qualifies as a largely controlled, gaffe-free politician. This is the closest his opponents have come to locating a potentially uncomfortable moment: Sitting next to Mitt Romney during the Aug. 12 interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Ryan said that he supports eliminating tax shelters “uniquely enjoyed by people in the top tax brackets so they can’t shelter as much money from taxation.” Romney has resisted calls to release more years of tax returns.Fun Facts


–His sister, Valerie Biden Owens, who ran his first campaign for County Council, has been with him on every campaign since — including his first Senate race when his upset victory made him, at 29, the fifth-youngest person ever elected to the chamber.–Overcame a stutter as a child by memorizing poetry and practicing in front of a mirror.–Amtrak renamed its station in Wilmington, Del., the “Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station” to honor the man who during his 36 years in the Senate commuted by train almost daily from his Delaware home to work in Washington. Biden also helped secure stimulus funding to refurbish the station.


–Classmates voted him both prom king and biggest “brown-noser” his senior year in high school.–In college, he had a job driving Oscar Mayer’s promotional hot dog-shaped Wienermobile.–His wife’s uncle is former senator and Oklahoma Gov. David Boren, a Democrat; her first cousin is the former governor’s son, Rep. David Boren, also an Oklahoma Democrat.–He sleeps in his congressional office while in Washington.–He has professed a fondness for “noodling” — catching catfish with his bare hands. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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