NEW YORK -- Democratic Senator Joe Biden wants you to know he is running for president. Definitely. Unequivocally. Absolutely.
"I'm the only guy who will tell you honestly what I'm doing. The others won't tell you, but I will," Biden said, wrapping up a fund-raising trip to New York before heading to New Hampshire, his ninth visit in just over a year. He has also campaigned through other early-voting states, spending 17 days in Iowa, nine in South Carolina, and four in Nevada.
In a potentially crowded Democratic field dominated by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois -- neither of whom has formally entered the race -- a Biden candidacy seems a bit of an anachronism.
But the 64-year-old Delaware lawmaker insists there's never been a better time for him to run.
"Frankly, I think I'm more qualified than other candidates, and the issues facing the American public are all in my wheelbarrow," Biden said. "I know I want to be president, I know what I believe, and my message is important."
Considered one of his party's most experienced spokesmen on international affairs, Biden will assume the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next month. He plans to convene hearings immediately on the Iraq war -- a high-visibility platform for him to showcase his expertise. He has also been actively promoting a detailed plan for peace in Iraq that would divide that country along ethnic lines.
With Iraq and global terrorism likely to remain key issues in the 2008 election, advisers say Biden's credibility in foreign affairs is his greatest asset -- particularly for Democrats concerned about Clinton's electability and Obama's short tenure in public life.
Still, observers say Biden's biggest obstacle is likely to be the lingering "been there, done that" perception of his candidacy.
"The problem for Biden is he's old news," said Dennis Goldford, a professor of political science at Iowa's Drake University. "Some people consider him one of the smartest guys with regard to foreign policy. But what makes you a good, experienced legislator is not necessarily what makes you a good presidential candidate."
Polls suggest that Biden's candidacy has barely registered with most voters. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of potential Democratic candidates taken earlier this month found that Biden won the support of 4 percent of respondents. He trailed not only Clinton and Obama, but also John Edwards, former North Carolina senator, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.
A member of the Senate since age 30, Biden is a career politician in an era where many voters seem to be craving something fresh. And Biden's first presidential bid collapsed 20 years ago amid allegations he plagiarized a campaign speech from Neil Kinnock, then the British Labor Party leader.
Like many senators who have given countless floor speeches, Biden can also be a tad long-winded. Grilling Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito last winter during confirmation hearings , Biden, a Senate Judiciary Committee member, asked just five questions of Alito and spent the rest of his allotted 30 minutes talking.
But longtime strategist Larry Rasky called Biden "a terrific retail campaigner" and argued that his garrulous reputation is largely a Washington complaint.