DENVER, Co. (CBS) - In the five days since being unveiled as Barack Obama's running mate, Delaware Senator Joe Biden has been somewhat of a forgotten man in all the hoopla surrounding the Democratic convention.
That changed Wednesday night as Biden took his turn in the spotlight, formally accepting his party's vice presidential nomination and serving notice that he's ready and willing to take the fight to the Republican ticket this fall.
Obama's decision to wait until the eve of his nominating convention in Denver, and on a weekend at that, to announce his running mate meant it probably didn't get the full amount of media attention it might have received at the beginning of the week. And the vast amounts of time and attention spent on looking for divisions within the party dampened Biden's exposure even more.
Even Wednesday night, Biden was momentarily eclipsed by the appearance on stage of former President Bill Clinton, whose presence in the primary resulted in some of the hardest feelings on both sides. The call for "change" in the election must have struck the former president as a repudiation of his eight years in office and the nomination.
Clinton delivered a brief speech, but one that did what it had to do - support Obama's readiness to be president.
"Everything I learned in my eight years as President and in the work I've done since, in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job," the former chief executive said. Like his wife, Bill Clinton urged her supporters to rally around the party flag and support the ticket in the fall. The fact that he isn't sticking around for Obama's speech Thursday night will be fodder for more psychoanalysis about the Clintons, but for one night, he was the good soldier.
But the night belonged to Biden, and the challenge was not minor. For a politician already known for his tendency toward verbosity, trying to boil down the kind of speech he's had 35 years in the United State Senate to think about into a made-for-TV event couldn't have been easy.
Biden spoke between some major moments in the convention. Senator Ted Kennedy's appearance on the stage Monday night was an emotional high point for Democrats everywhere. Hillary Clinton's speech, imploring her supporters to line up behind Barack Obama, may not have provided the catharsis some imagined, but it was a start. And Barack Obama's speech -- in a giant stadium before tens of thousands -- is yet to come.
The mission for the vice presidential nominee, however, was different from those. It was threefold - to introduce himself to the American people, to vouch for Obama's readiness to become commander-in-chief, and to rip into his longtime friend and colleague John McCain.
Democrats hungering for a McCain lashing may have come away disappointed from the lack of heavy rhetoric. There was no single moment like Ann Richards skewering George H. W. Bush for having been born with a "silver foot in his mouth." There was no mention about how many houses the McCains own.
There was something that has been missing for much of this convention however - clear contrasts drawn between Obama and McCain on very specific issues, both economic and on national security and foreign policy. On point after point, the mantra Biden repeated for John McCain was, "that's not change; that's more of the same."
And while Biden, like many others from the podium in Denver, declared his admiration for McCain's service, he did take his jabs at him. "The choice in this election is clear," Biden said. "These times require more than a good soldier; they require a wise leader, a leader who can deliver change-the change everybody knows we need."
Biden was at his best, however, when talking about himself. Recounting the hard times in his life; the death of his father, the tragic accident that took his first wife and a child, and his childhood stutter, Biden recalled what his mother taught him. "After the accident, she told me, 'Joey, God sends no cross you cannot bear.' And when I triumphed, she was quick to remind me it was because of others. My mother's creed is the American creed: No one is better than you. You are everyone's equal, and everyone is equal to you."
Biden may have had a tall order, competing with Hillary Clinton and both Obamas in prime time. But he may have connected more on an emotional level than any of them at the end of this convention.
The theme of Wednesday was "Securing America's Future," and most of the speakers who were paraded to the stage hit on the themes of national security, foreign policy and the war in Iraq. Like Tuesday, when the convention focused on economic matters, Democrats again sought to tie McCain to the Bush Administration at every turn.
The overall impact of the message was likely to be lost though, thanks to the roll call vote which formally bestowed the party's nomination on Obama.
After days, if not weeks, of conversations between the Clinton and Obama camps over how to orchestrate something that would recognize Clinton supporters, not embarrass the nominee and satisfy both sides. The result couldn't have come off much better, resulting in Hillary Clinton calling to stop the roll call and nominate Obama by acclamation right in the middle of the evening news.
In all the intrigue and positioning this week, the magnitude of the history being made in Denver has sometimes gotten lost. Forty years ago, Robert Kennedy predicted that a major party would possibly be ready to nominate an African American candidate at this time, and on Wednesday, it happened.
Thursday, on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, Barack Obama will accept that nomination, making all the gamesmanship of the days leading up to it seem petty in the larger perspective.