President Barack Obama was elected during an economic cataclysm, and his first major task was passing an economic stimulus bill. But Republican leaders were determined to stop him, and he needed to persuade three GOP senators to support his bill and break the filibuster. He assigned the job to his Senate whisperer, his chief dealmaker, his aide with the best bipartisan relationships: Vice President Joe Biden.
To nail down those Republican votes, Biden went into legislative stalker mode, schmoozing his old Senate colleagues into submission. He called Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania 14 times during the presidential transition, repeatedly asking: Whaddya want? He kept tracking down Susan Collins of Maine in her hometown of Caribou, and when spotty cell service kept cutting off their chats, he kept calling back.
Bob Bennett of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana told him they couldn’t help, but Biden constantly checked in anyway, pleading with them to break with their party to save the country. “Look, man, we really need this to be bipartisan,” he appealed to Mel Martinez of Florida.