Facing a revived Republican Party, the White House is expected to increasingly deploy Biden as a presidential surrogate to find compromises and coax reluctant lawmakers into crossing party lines. Even Biden's penchant for veering off message is being re-evaluated inside the White House as a bridge to ordinary voters who appreciate blunt talk.
A model for Biden's role in the next session of Congress was the recent passage of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Biden, who built a reputation as a foreign policy expert during his 36 years in the Senate, prevailed in an internal White House debate over whether to press for ratification in the lame-duck session.
Some White House advisers had worried that the votes weren't in hand and that a defeat would weaken the president at home and abroad.
But Biden argued that ratifying the treaty would only get tougher in 2011, when the Democratic majority in the Senate would shrink by five votes. He then made about 40 calls to Republican senators, helping win the required two-thirds vote that gave the White House a major foreign policy victory at the close of the year.
David Axelrod, a senior advisor to Obama, said Biden proved to be "an all-star player."
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