Barack Obama Reveals How He Popped the Question to Joe Biden

Barack Obama Reveals How He Popped the Question to Joe Biden
Sens. Barack Obama and Joseph Biden

08/25/2008 AT 08:00 PM EDT

Picture this: A photographer asks Democratic running mates Barack Obama and Joe Biden to squeeze together for a portrait. "We're kind of insecure," jokes Obama, while Biden counters, "I carry my wife's pocketbook – I'm fine." "Okay," declares Obama, posing for the camera, "get tight!"

When PEOPLE caught up with the candidates the day of their Aug. 23 announcement, the banter was easy between the onetime rivals – who became a team once Obama, 47, asked the senator from Delaware, 65, to help on the ticket. Also joining in the conversation: wives Michelle Obama, 44, and Jill Biden, 57.

This is the first mate you've chosen since Michelle.
Barack Obama: That's a good point.
Michelle Obama: Barack is looking for people who will challenge him, who will tell him no.
Barack: That's exactly what you need [in a vice-president].
Michelle: That's why he married me. (Laughs.) So I'd tell Sen. Biden, don't pull any punches.

Now, if Sen. Biden starts yelling at you about picking up your socks ...
Barack: Then we're in trouble. Don't do that, Joe.
Joe Biden: Don't worry.

How did you pop the question?
Barack: I called his office and they had to hunt him down. When I finally got him, he said he was at the dentist's office. I realized only later that he was being a doting husband, looking after Jill during a root canal.

How did Sen. Biden tell the family?
Jill Biden: My granddaughter, Maisy, turned 8 and we were having a little birthday party for her. We had just finished blowing out the candles and were cutting the cake. Joe said to everybody, 'Hey, I have something that I'd like to announce.' And he said, 'Barack called me and asked me to be vice-president.' Everybody – I get so emotional when I think about it – and everybody clapped and started hugging.
Joe: Every single birthday, all of our kids and grandkids – no matter where they are – they come home to our house. We have this big, old farm table [in the kitchen], and that's where we were. Maisy was totally unfazed. She said, 'Pop, can I have some more ice cream cake?'

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