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Pieces of Eight


Baumgartner Dines with V.P. Joe Biden

By Christine Neff

When the vice president’s office calls with a dinner invitation, you can’t very well turn it down.

Especially if, like Jody Baumgartner, assistant professor of political science at East Carolina University, you study American vice presidents.

Baumgartner’s extraordinary invitation came by way of an advisor to Vice President Joe Biden. He was asked to join several other experts on the vice presidency for a special dinner to be hosted by Biden in his Massachusetts Avenue home.

Baumgartner has published a book, “The American Vice Presidency Reconsidered” (2006), and several articles on the subject of vice presidents, but never thought he would have the chance to dine with one.

“I was very surprised,” he said. “It was very exciting. There is no other way to say it.”

Guests at the June 9 dinner included three other scholars, a former advisor to Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware and several of Biden’s advisors.

Biden had called the gathering to converse about the opportunities and pitfalls facing a vice president. While Baumgartner did not reveal specifics of their conversation, he did say Biden seemed to have a good sense of the office from a historical perspective.

“I got the distinct impression that he had a fair idea of what was going on already. I think he called together this convocation to confirm those ideas and see if anything new came out,” Baumgartner said.  

Baumgartner’s research has shown that, though the primary job of the vice president is to help the president, some have found this secondary role to be a difficult one.

Baumgartner also noted that vice presidents have become more influential, more powerful and more involved since Walter Mondale served under President Jimmy Carter. He sees Biden continuing this trend.

“In spite of the fact that Biden is not going to be another Dick Cheney, there is no chance that he’s going to fade into the background. He may not overtake Cheney in terms of power and influence, but he’s not going to go backwards,” Baumgartner said.

All in all, Baumgartner enjoyed the experience, describing it as “pretty cool,” and “a heck of a nice deal.”  

And, he spoke highly of his host:  “He’s a very nice fellow. Some of it is probably practiced, but I get the sense that he is, genuinely, a really nice guy.”


This page originally appeared in the July 31, 2009 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at