By rail with Joe Biden (Will we ever get such access to Palin?)

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 16, 2008 

This is the report filed to reporters covering Joe Biden by the print reporter selected to travel with the candidate Tuesday, Mark Leibovich of The New York Times:

Biden Print Pool Report. Mark Leibovich, NYT

Sen. Joseph Biden departed 1:35 from the Mayflower Hotel, where he spent the night (No Spitzer jokes deemed appropriate by pool)

He arrived at Union Station at 1:50, and headed to Amtrak platform A. He hugged a woman wearing a vest and then summoned a familiar-looking guy in a hart hat for a close greeting -- something between handshake and hug. Candidate carried a tattered leather briefcase (brown) and was greeted by two uniformed Amtrak officers. He boarded the first passenger car of 2 p.m Acela. He wore a big, camera-ready grin.

"Hi, how are ya" Biden said, greeting your pool. (Note: a few minutes before Mr. Biden’s arrival, a man who looked a lot like Sen. Arlen Specter was seen leaving a train on opposite platform, wearing a straw hat. Specter and Biden – ranking members of the Senate judiciary committee – frequently travel home together, Biden getting off in Wilmington, Specter continuing on home to Philly)

At 1:57, Biden took a seat on the first passenger car – not a quiet car – which the pool did not immediately have access to. A section of Biden's car appeared to be closed off to passengers by uniformed authorities (one of whom stood in the aisle, blocking pool's view for several minutes). Train left a few seconds after 2 p.m. The trip was scheduled to take one hour and 12 minutes, with single stop at Baltimore's Penn Station, according to Amtrak official.

Biden spent first part of journey talking on cell phone, according to Liz Reiter, who promised that at some point, Biden would get up and mingle with "real people." David Wade added that Biden would be spending portion of his trip "in meetings."

Pool’s Amtrak ticket cost $125. Unclear what Biden's cost (David said he'd try to find out).

Pool was allowed onto Amtrak Joe's car at 2:30 p.m. He was already in full meeting-greeting mode, but gestured pool to come forward. Pool demurred initially, saying he did not want to cause nuisance.

"Hey, I'm the nuisance," Biden reassured, gesturing to phalanx of camera people and secret service agents around him. "I used to ride this thing every day and nobody paid any attention."

Biden then worked his way up the aisle. "Hey, man," he said to one guy. "Hey, I saw Matt the other day," he said to another.

Across the aisle, a Newark-bound passenger, Chrissy Dumbert, took in the commotion and observed, "This is the craziest train ride I've ever been on."

Biden headed up to next car, assuring a passenger that "If we get elected, it will be the most train-friendly administration ever."

He told another passenger, Jim Dunn: "I understand you’re a suspect," to which the Metro Park, NJ-bound Mr. Dunn said, "Yes, you've probably seen my picture on the wall of the post office."

Mr. Dunn, who spoke with an Irish accent, said he probably knew Biden's ancestors back in Ireland, and that he took Mr. Biden's odd greeting in good faith.

"Get the hell out of my way," Biden yelled to pool standing in the aisle. "I love you, but you're bothering all these people." He turned to another passenger: "You're on television now. I'm sorry, but I can't control this."

Biden then entered the dining car and whispered something to the woman behind the counter, Joanne. He ordered a bottle of water and a "Cranberry cocktail."

Pool expressed surprise that Biden would partake of a "cocktail" at this afternoon hour.

"I'm the only guy you know who doesn't drink," Biden said, adding that he has never taken a drink in his life. "Too many alcoholics in my family," he explained.

He then pivoted and turned back toward his seat, meeting and greeting more passengers en route. A few people made cell phone calls from their seats to report their Biden sightings. (This probably didn't happen before he was Obama's running mate, either, or at least not as much.)

Biden stopped and chatted with Neil and Ellen Meltzer, who were both heading to NYC for a party at the Rainbow Room. She invited Biden to the party and, Biden invited Ellen out on the road with him. Biden also offered Ellen his bottled water.

All offers were declined amicably, and Biden moved on.

Back in his car, Biden greeted two young blonde women, one of whom, Meredith Angleston, has a family connection to the veteran senator (her dad knows him). She said that she attended NYU law school, which Biden declared "must be the best law school in the country."

Why? Biden explained that his son, who attended Yale, did not get into NYU.

Biden encouraged Meredith to call him for a job if she decides to move to DC after law school.

Meredith's seat-mate, Ellen Fisher, had been in DC to testify before the Sen. Judiciary Committee. She works for something called the Brennan Center for Justice, and she gave Biden a copy of her testimony. Biden said he would have been at the hearing himself if he weren't running for vice president.

Meredith and Ellen were joined by a third party, Fritz Schwartz, who also testified before the committee.

Biden, for some reason, called Mr. Schwartz "the professor," although Mr. Schwartz noted that he was not in fact a professor.

Biden said that he looked like a professor, because Mr. Schwartz had "an air of authority" about him. Mr. Schwartz later said that he heard Biden say "hair of authority." (In fact, the guy had great hair, if not necessarily professorial hair)

Biden then turned to another party nearby, Wesley Warren, and apologized for disrupting his trip.

Train arrived in Wilmington at 3:16 p.m. Amtrak Joe walked the platform, shaking hands with cops and Amtrak workers. At one point, he reached into an open door for one last hand-shake with another Amtrak employee and the automatic doors nearly closed on his arms. "You're like family," Biden said, pulling his arm away.

Calamity was averted at the last minute when the doors re-opened. A K-9 dog following behind barked at near-incident.

Biden then greeted a few people at the ticket counter, coming to within literally and inch or two from one woman's face. He then accepted applause from two counter workers at Primo Cappucino and ducked into the small cafe to say hello. (Conversation not audible.)

Candidate left Wilmington station by motorcade at 3:24.

He said he planned to go home, pack a few things, see wife Jill, and then head on to Media, PA.

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