Along with many millions of people, I was mighty impressed by Biden’s mid-September interview with Stephen Colbert. Talking with frankness about his faith and how he’s coped with more than his share of loss in his life — in addition to the death in May of his 46-year-old son Beau from brain cancer, his first wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972 — Biden sounded refreshingly unpolitical. He came off as charming, warm, and comfortable speaking without a script — someone who (unlike some) doesn’t need to practice his authenticity.

Then there are Biden’s recent statements staking out a more conflicted position on abortion than one expects to hear from such a prominent Democrat. This places him far closer to the consensus position on the issue than most leading members of his party and may indicate that he would cultivate more of a working-class, middle-American sensibility than we’ve seen from a Democratic presidential candidate since…well, since Jim Webb announced he was running. Yet unlike Webb, Biden seems, so far, to be pulling it off. Good for him. And good for the Democratic Party if he can run and succeed as that rarest of things — a moderate on the most divisive issue in the culture war.

On foreign policy, Biden might be even more interesting. Not many people remember it now, but back during George W. Bush’s second term, Biden proposed that Iraq be broken up into three semi-autonomous regions — one Sunni, one Shiite, and one Kurdish. It was a bold proposal that was quickly forgotten once W’s troop “surge” finally managed to tamp down the insurgency that was tearing the country apart at the time.