Mo Joe

How the bear-hugging, pain-feeling, close-talking, heart-on-his-sleeve Vice President became the Obama campaign's not-so-secret weapon

Marco Grob for TIME

Vice President Joe Biden

Until you have seen Joe Biden work a firehouse, you ain't never seen it done. It's Mantle at the plate, Baryshnikov in Leningrad, Coltrane at the Half Note. There are no simple grin-and-grips, no formalities for the cameras. His jacket is off. His hair is barely there. He's 69 years old, leaning in, all eye contact, teeth and heart--grabbing, smiling, spilling his guts on the floor.

"Hey, man," says the Vice President of the United States, holding out a hand to each of the 13 firemen who stand rigid at attention, arms behind their backs in front of a polished red...

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