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Biden begins to shore up Obama's defensive line

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For many party activists, what's been missing in the Obama campaign to date is a strong defensive line. They're looking to Biden, known in the Senate for a sharp tongue, to provide it. On Wednesday, he tried to walk the line of knocking down McCain's positions without flattening the character of the GOP's presumptive nominee himself.

"John McCain is my friend. We've known each other for three decades. We've traveled the world together. And the personal courage and heroism John demonstrated still amaze me," Biden said. "But I profoundly disagree with the direction that John wants to take the country."

What's wrong with McCain's views? He thinks the nation has made great economic progress, Biden said. "I think it's been abysmal." Though claiming a reputation as a maverick, "John sided with President Bush 95 percent of the time," he said. Millions of jobs have left America's shore, he asserted, but "McCain supports tax breaks for corporations that send them." And so on.

The tough talk played well in the Pepsi Center, as the crowd joined Biden's refrain after each attack: "That's not change; that's more of the same."

"We're not going to let what happened in the past, such as 'swift-boating' (a reference to unanswered attacks on John Kerry's war record in the 2004 presidential campaign), happen to this team," says Gilberto Hinojosa, a lawyer and delegate from Brownsville, Texas. "Joe Biden is a guy who's going to roll up his sleeves and throw punches when they need to be thrown."

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