President Obama may have disappointed the NAACP by appearing only via brief video message Thursday at the civil rights group's annual gathering — especially after Mitt Romney had personally taken the stage a day earlier.
But sending in Vice President Biden to stir things up, just 24 hours after Romney was booed while delivering a conservative message meant to resonate beyond the walls of the Houston convention center, seemed to work out just fine for Obama.
Biden in recent days has offered up some of the Obama campaign's most pointed criticisms of the Republican challenger: "Mitt Romney wants you to show your papers, but he won't show us his," he told a Hispanic civil rights group on Tuesday, referring in one sound bite both to Romney's immigration stance and his refusal to make public several years' tax returns.
So Biden has the leeway to be more political, more incendiary than a sitting president.
Case in point:
The president, in Thursday's video message, served up generalities like this: "No matter who you are or what you look like, or where you come from, America is the place you can make it if you try."
The vice president, facing a raucously supportive crowd, served up red meat like this: "Imagine what the Supreme Court will look like after four years of a Romney presidency." (Earlier this week, Biden at another event used the same line, but asked supporters to "imagine what it will look like for women with six [Justice Antonin] Scalias on the bench.")
We listened Thursday to Biden, who characterized the coming election as a "fight for the heart and soul of America," with an ear toward what he had to say that Obama, as president, likely couldn't, or maybe wouldn't say at such an event at this point in the campaign.
Here are some highlights:
On voting rights, in light of Republican-led efforts to pass state voter ID laws
"I want to remind everybody of one thing: Remember. Remember what [the NAACP], at its core, was all about. It was all about the franchise. It was about the right to vote. Because when you have the right to vote, you have the right to change things. Did you think we'd be fighting these battles again?"
On the Republican Party
"I remember working with Republicans — and, by the way, this ain't your father's Republican Party — remember working with Republicans on 'motor voter,' on expanding the franchise, on early voting, on voting by mail. They see a different future where voting is made harder, not easier."
On civil rights
"Close your eyes and imagine — imagine what the Romney Justice Department would look like. Imagine who he'd recommend to be the attorney general or head of the civil rights division."
Biden, long known for his verbosity, drew some of his own boos, and cries of "no" — but, surprisingly, not for going on too long, but for indicating he was about to wrap up.
As he exited the stage, the Stevie Wonder song "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" blared from the public address system. And, in what's likely a rare moment for Biden, he left behind an adoring audience that appeared to want more.
Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.