As the Republicans continue to fret over Mitt Romney's authenticity or lack thereof, the Democrats unleashed their version in Ohio the other day by sending Vice President Joe Bidento a United Auto Workers hall in Toledo. Talk about sending coals to Newcastle.
As Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and even Ron Paul struggle to establish themselves as the non-Romney before Republican audiences in the primary and caucus states, Mr. Biden just by being himself demonstrates what Mr. Romney desperately lacks.
The native from coal-country Scranton in northeastern Pennsylvania drew wild cheers from the Toledo autoworkers by reminding them that the Obama administration had saved their jobs by backing the auto industry bailout of late 2008 begun under President George W. Bush. The $770-billion loan gamble to General Motors and Chrysler was conspicuously opposed by Mr. Romney at the time.
"The President and I made a bet," he said. "We bet on you, and we won. No one was lining up to lend money, not even Bain Capital," referring to Mr. Romney's venture capital firm specializing in corporate makeovers. Mr. Obama, he said, "made the tough call and the verdict is in. President was right, and they were dead wrong."
The speech was pure preaching to the choir on the bailout, and it came from a self-serving politician. But the messenger came with a credibility out of his own blue-collar background, the lack of which has haunted and stymied Mr. Romney throughout this year's presidential campaign.
Unlike Mr. Romney, Mr. Biden has no need to bend himself out of shape with forced regional expressions of speech and references to local food favorites. His open and freewheeling manner conveys that he is comfortable in his own skin, something Mr. Romney would die for but which seems beyond his personal grasp.
Mr. Biden's talent for connecting with audiences of various backgrounds does not come, to be sure, without a price on many occasions. He has become famous for his foot-in-mouth disease, such as carelessly taking as his own a British politician's tale of his family's climb out of poverty, which drove Mr. Biden out of his first presidential bid in the late 1980s.
His penchant for going on at excessive length fueled by his uncommon enthusiasm and his old-fashioned Irish gift of gab also has brought him criticism. There is a tendency among many to dismiss his seriousness and broad experience not only in politics but also in the conduct of foreign policy.
As a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and eventually its chairman, Mr. Biden is equally at ease in foreign capitals as on Main Street at home. And if as an inveterate spinner of yarns he seems sometimes too full of himself, he has the life experience and track record to back them up.
One of Mr. Romney's most obvious shortcomings is his inability to tell stories about himself that provide a window into who he really is. His late father, George, a former Michigan governor, had no trouble doing so, humanizing himself with tales of his Huck Finn boyhood in Idaho, when he and his pals amused themselves with such antics as their nighttime overturning of rural outhouses.
Mr. Romney's own passions, in contrast, often are revealed in generalized accounts of saving this or that corporation, or building it from scratch in the impersonal world of high finance. Joe Biden, though like Mr. Romney a teetotaler and general straight arrow in his personal behavior, still manages to convey an demeanor that enables him to fit in with Joe Six-Pack, especially in campaign settings.
Whereas Mr. Romney evokes more Thomas E. Dewey than Ronald Reagan on the political stump, Mr. Biden is more Hubert Humphrey than Al Gore. That may account for the bland response Mr. Romney elicits as he slogs though the primary swamps in quest of the magic 1,144 Republican convention delegates he needs for nomination.
Mitt Romney is who he is, and he could take a lesson from Joe Biden in letting it all hang out, warts and all. His problem may be, though, that are aren't any warts of the sort that can enable him to connect with all those resistant Republicans out there.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption" (William Morrow). His email is email@example.com.