Washington, Nov.11 : Harnessing U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden's considerable foreign policy talents and containing his flaws will be a huge challenge for President -elect Barack Obama.
The Politico quotes Democratic insiders as saying that the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, and the administration's need to forge a governing coalition that includes some Republicans-has clarified Biden's upcoming role. He'll play the good cop.
The Democrats' apparent failure to win the 60 Senate seats necessary to halt a GOP filibuster has created the need for inter-party ambassadors like Biden who are practiced at the art of aisle crossing. In his 36-year Senate career, Biden was never considered a bomb-throwing ideologue, and he still has plenty of chits to cash in with Republicans on the Hill.
"He's probably got more friends among Senate Republicans than John McCain does, and that's a huge plus for Barack Obama, who is committed to breaking the partisan roadblock of recent years," said Biden spokesman David Wade shortly before Election Day.
Biden too believes that he will be spending a lot of his time in Congress, convincing fellow lawmakers on both sides of the American political divide to bat for the Obama administration's policies.
Indeed, Biden told the New Yorker that his style would be more honey than sting: "I have never ever, ever screwed another senator," he said.
On top of that, Biden could not be more different than the outgoing vice president, who never visited the weekly Democratic caucus lunches in the Senate and had virtually no relationships with the other side of the aisle.
Biden's best Republican friends in the Senate are centrists, including retiring Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and the top Republican on the Foreign Relations committee, Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, with whom he's forged a close working partnership.
Biden is equally popular with some GOP staffers, drawing top-level Republican aides into free-ranging discussion on nettlesome policy problems, even setting up secure computer forums where aides can swap ideas without partisan recrimination, according to a person who participated in one of the chat groups.
Biden may find it even tougher with Democratic senators-thrilled to have one of their own in the White House again-who may want to simply bypass the vice president and forge a relationship directly with Obama.
Obama hasn't served a full term in the Senate but he's got plenty of friends in the Democratic caucus: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, up-and-coming Missouri freshman Claire McCaskill and an ailing but still powerful Ted Kennedy.
Obama also has a unique relationship with one of the most conservative senators, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, with whom he shares a passion for government reform.
Then there's former Majority Leader Tom Daschle-a well-connected kitchen-cabinet Obama adviser who is likely to play some kind of role in the administration.
But Biden's biggest competition may come from the president-elect himself.
Obama has gone to great lengths to establish personal relationships with legislators, creating direct lines of communication that will be handy even if he runs into problems with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.