Carter-Biden connection dates back to early ’70s

DOVER — This week, Jimmy Carter and Joe Biden have been in the headlines.

A few days ago, we learned that former President Carter, now 90, is in the advanced stages of cancer.

Meanwhile, Vice President Biden is vacationing in South Carolina, but has apparently been busy making calls, seeking input on whether he should seek the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2016.

From the Editor logo copy copyVice President Biden, whose son Beau died on May 30 after a bout with cancer, also took time to reach out to President Carter.

“Spoke with President Jimmy Carter tonight,” Vice President Biden’s Twitter post read Wednesday night. “A great man, always upbeat and optimistic. We’re praying for him.”

The two actually go way back.

The Carter-Biden relationship started in 1974.

President Carter, in a speech at a $1,000-a-couple Biden fundraiser in Wilmington some years later, said Sen. Biden was in Atlanta to speak at a Georgia Jaycees convention. Sen. Biden, just 31 years old, was in his first term, fresh off his upset of Republican J. Caleb Boggs in the 1972 election.

It was during the time of Watergate and the unpopular war in Vietnam. Sen. Biden was known at the time for his youthful optimism.

“I felt a little bit ill at ease,” President Carter told the Delawareans in attendance. “I thought that Joe should have been talking to my children instead of to me.”

Laughter filled the room.

“He’s about my oldest son’s age. But I sat and listened to Joe for two or three hours that night, talking about his own campaign and the kind of people who helped him and the mechanism that he used in Delaware to win what apparently was a hopeless political battle. And he expressed to me then his deep confidence in the Delaware people and a sense that if he could reach them directly, even on a shoestring budget and without any substantial media advertising, that he felt that I could do the same on a nationwide basis.”

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Joe Biden with Jimmy Carter in 2008. Tributne(News Service/Chuck Kennedy)

At a Democratic Party reception before the event at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, President Carter joked about their first meeting and how he confided in Sen. Biden that he was considering a run for president.

“He said, ‘Well, I can tell you how you can be elected even though nobody knows you,’” President Carter told the group. “‘You’re a Southerner; you haven’t had any experience; you don’t know very much about national issues, as much as I know myself.

“But, he said, ‘If you’ll get my sister (Valerie Biden Owens) to be your national chairman, you’ll win.’”

“She had better sense than to take on a hopeless cause, so I had to take on a second choice.”

Sen. Biden went on to do quite a bit of campaigning for President Carter, visiting 30 states and spending a lot of time in Pennsylvania where delegate votes were critical.

In Delaware, Carter took 52 percent of the vote in the election against Republican Gerald Ford.

Vice President Biden’s sister, by the way, has managed all of his campaigns, including his seven consecutive U.S.

Senate elections and his 1988 and 2008 presidential bids.

The Carter appearance in Wilmington came just a few weeks after a private meeting Sen. Biden had with him in the White House.

In his 2010 book “White House Diaries,” President Carter said that he was not aware that Sen. Ted Kennedy was planning a coup to get support for the nomination in 1980.

“As a young senator, Joe Biden had been my most effective supporter during the 1976 campaign,” President Carter wrote. “Joe’s report proved to be quite accurate. This was the first indication I had about Kennedy’s presidential plans, but they were soon to become more evident as he marshaled opposition to many of my proposals.”

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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