'Clown' VP Joe Biden Under Pressure to Deliver at Convention

Most Americans view Biden negatively, calling him "stupid" and a "joke," Pew Says.

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Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop at the Spiller Elementary School in Wytheville, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. Biden traveled to southern and southwestern Virginia to discuss the choice voters have in Virginia. A choice between two fundamental differences in visions of how to grow the economy, create middle-class jobs and pay down the debt.

Vice President Joe Biden served more than 30 years in the U.S. Senate. He's been the chairman of two of the most powerful Senate panels—the Judiciary Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee. He played a key role in passing the recent nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

But he's probably better known to the American public for going nuclear with his remarks. This reputation for salty language and ethnic gaffes is creating some giddy anticipation by Republicans and apprehension among Democrats as he takes the convention stage on Thursday, the culminating night for Democrats in Charlotte.

[Read: Top Biden Gaffes.]

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, when people were asked to use one word to describe Biden, 38 percent used a negative one versus 23 percent who used a positive one.

"Clown," "stupid," "joke," "goofy" and "buffoon," were the top choices offered, according to Pew. "Good" and "honest" were the most common positive terms.

Biden's Republican counterpart, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan had a more balanced reputation according to the Pew survey, most often being described as "conservative and intelligent."

Republicans are already hoping to capitalize on the juxtaposition of the two men. Both are career politicians with their intelligence widely respected among their peers, but Ryan, at 42, is 27 years younger than Biden, and lacks the bumbling public reputation Biden has earned.

[Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.]

Biden's the guy who told President Obama during the bill signing of the health care reform act that it was a "big, f-ing deal." Biden also induced cringes when he asked a wheel-chair bound politician to stand up before a crowd. Most recently, he told a mixed-race audience that those seeking to de-regulate Wall Street were seeking to "put y'all back in chains," a remark that was repudiated by Democrats and Republicans alike for its racial connotations.

Ryan has also earned some ridicule for claiming to have run a sub-three hour marathon, only to have to walk it back once Runner's World verified that his actual time was four hours. And the GOP has had a lingering hangover of mockery for the unscripted and widely-panned performance by Clint Eastwood on their final convention night.

But it's Republican sympathizers who are running ads questioning Biden's fitness for office, hoping to actually impact the race.

[See photos of GOP VP pick Paul Ryan.]

"He's just a heartbeat away from the presidency. Who do you trust to take the helm if needed?" asks an advertisement, paid for by a political group named the America Future Fund, aired recently. The nearly two minute ad then runs through a series of Biden gaffes juxtaposed with critical commentators questioning his fitness for office.

Despite Biden's knack for looking silly, his reputation among Senate colleagues is as someone who actually knows what he's talking about, which has aided him during his time in the clubby Captiol Hill body as well as his White House.

President Barack Obama and Democrats are hoping it's that competent Biden who will show up on stage on Thursday, as they clamor for all the momentum they can get heading into the final stretch of the neck-and-neck presidential campaign.

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.

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