Joe Biden was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972 at just 29 years of age, after scoring an upset win against veteran Republican Senator J. Caleb Boggs. He didn’t even meet the age requirement to be a Senator until later that same month. Just five weeks later, Biden lost his wife and daughter in a car accident in which his two sons were injured. They had been out Christmas shopping. A distraught Biden was talked into taking his seat by the then Senate majority leader. He later remarried, and he and wife Jill raised a daughter and Biden’s sons from his previous marriage. (Photo: August 12, 1974, by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
Biden ran for president in 1988, but his campaign was marred by a plagiarism scandal after it was discovered that he lifted parts of a speech from British Labor Party politician Neil Kinnock and inflated his academic record. The nomination eventually went to Michael Dukakis, the former governor of Massachusetts, who lost to George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan’s vice president. (Photo: Wikimedia commons)
Biden led the Senate Judiciary Committee during two of the most contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings in modern U.S. history: the 1987 hearings for failed conservative nominee Robert Bork, and the 1991 hearings involving Clarence Thomas, including the Anita Hill scandal. (Photo by Arnold Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)
Joe Biden ran for president again in 2007, and stood out during the debates against two heavyweight opponents: then Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Biden’s best line skewering Republican presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, about whom Biden said: “there’s only three things he mentions in a sentence — a noun, a verb, and 9/11.”
During the same debate, Biden was asked by the moderator, NBC News’ Brian Williams, about his tendency to be verbose and to be a “gaffe machine,” and whether he would have the discipline to represent America on the world stage. Biden’s one-word answer: “yes,” drew laughs and applause from the audience. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Biden had a few stumbles during the 2008 campaign, including a comment about Obama that: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” Biden later apologized for the remark, and made it onto the Obama ticket. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin famously couldn’t remember Biden’s name during the 2008 election cycle — in practices, she kept referring to him as Joe O’Biden, according to the book Game Change. So Palin came up with a work-around: asking the vice president at the start of the debate, “can I call you Joe?” (Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Biden was at President Barack Obama’s side when the Affordable Care Act was passed, and he marked the occasion by whispering into Obama’s ear — and into an open mike — that this was a “big f—ing deal.” (Getty Images)
Of all the legislation Biden has worked on or authored, none has been more referenced than the Violence Against Women Act, which Biden wrote in 1993. Democrats foght to reauthorize the VAWA this year, but Republicans objected to provisions adding protections for gays and lesbians. (Getty Images)
Biden is a key adviser to the president on foreign policy, though he has admitted he counseled Obama against launching a military operation to get Osama Bin Laden by raiding a residential compound in Pakistan. Still, Biden was with the president in the Situation Room of the White House as the successful raid went down, on May 1, 2011, and Biden has praised the successful operation and the president on the campaign trail, often with the line: “Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” (Photo source: the White House)
The pressure is on Biden to perform well in Wednesday night’s debate against vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, congressman from Wisconsin. The Obama-Biden team’s re-election hopes ride on their actions, and events known and unknown, over the next 27 days. (Getty Images)
But whatever happens, one thing’s for sure: it’s good to have a wing man. (Getty Images)
… and there aren’t too many wing men better than Joe. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Vice President Joe Biden has had one of the longest careers in politics, having been first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972. Obama’s “wing man” has had his high and low moments, but over the course of his career he has built a strong brand as the “regular Joe” who connects with blue collar voters, and more recently, with African-Americans, as evidenced by the warm reception he received at this year’s NAACP convention.
On the night of what might be his most important debate so far, we recount the ups and downs of Joe.