It is a good thing US President Barack Obama has a close relationship with Vice President Joe Biden, who is touching down in New Zealand tonight for a 24-hour visit.

It makes it easier to forgive his jokes.

Especially the one last year when Biden told a conference in Germany that Obama "sends me to places that he doesn't want to go".

We know it's a joke because Obama has told Prime Minister John Key many times that he wants to visit New Zealand. And he has loved his visits to Australia, where Biden has spent the past three days.

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But Biden is making the most of his last six months in office, with a tour Down Under on Air Force Two with three of his granddaughters in tow: 12-year-old Natalia Biden, 18-year-old Finnegan Biden and 21-year-old Naomi Biden. They will be with him in New Zealand as well.

Joe Biden has turned into one of the most influential vice presidents in history, and gets to have the final word in Barack Obama's ear. Photo / AP
Joe Biden has turned into one of the most influential vice presidents in history, and gets to have the final word in Barack Obama's ear. Photo / AP

The youngest is the daughter of Biden's oldest son, Beau, who died of brain cancer last year.

The others are daughters of Biden's youngest son, Hunter.

Biden is in his eighth year as Obama's vice president. They weren't close when Obama shoulder tapped him, though that has changed.

Obama, an inexperienced Senator, wanted a running mate with experience especially in foreign affairs, as Biden had had as head of the powerful foreign relations committee as the long-serving Senator from Delaware. In Biden he also found an avuncular figure that connected easily to people from all walks of life.

In his first term, Biden was seen as a bit of a liability, misspeaking becoming something of a recurring theme.

As time has gone by, the lips have become slightly more disciplined and he is now described as one of the most influential vice presidents in history, even more so than Dick Cheney was to George W Bush.

With his experience on Capitol Hill, he has been invaluable to Obama during some of the fiscal crises. He has been a close adviser on Iraq, fiscal reform and he has been a champion of the middle-classes in the Administration.

Joe Biden, right, and New South Wales state Premier Mike Baird share a laugh during a business roundtable in Sydney, Australia on Monday. Photo / AP
Joe Biden, right, and New South Wales state Premier Mike Baird share a laugh during a business roundtable in Sydney, Australia on Monday. Photo / AP

The arrangement with Obama, he told the

New Yorker

, is that he gets to be the last person in the room with the president when the other advisers have gone.

Despite his growing stature in the office, the beginning and end of the his political career have defined by tragic family events.

In 1972, before he had been sworn in as the new 30-year-old Senator for Delaware, his first wife, Neilia and 1-year old daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident while shopping for a Christmas tree.

The little boys, Beau aged three and Hunter aged two, were injured but recovered.

To be home for the boys as much as he could, he commuted daily for 90 minutes each way instead of staying over in Washington.

Beau went on to become Delaware Attorney General and had expressed an interest in running for Governor of Delaware before he died of brain cancer last year.

Biden considered a third run at the presidency but announced in October, with his wife, Jill, and Obama at his side, that he had decided not to.

He has since endorsed Hillary Clinton, a good friend.

Meet Joe Biden

Vice-President to Barack Obama since 2009.

Delaware senator for 36 years.

Twice entered Democrats' presidential primary, in 1988 and 2008, but withdrew.

First wife and daughter killed in car crash while collecting Christmas tree.

Raised two sons and commuted daily 90 minutes each way in a train to Washington.

Remarried and had second daughter. He is 73.

Overcame stutter as a teenager through reciting poetry.

Oldest son, Beau, died of cancer last year.

Loose-lipped Joe

"A man I'm proud to call my friend. A man who will be the next president of the United States - Barack America!" 2008

"[Obama] sends me to places that he doesn't want to go." 2015

"Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice-president of the United States of America ... Quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me." 2008

"Folks, I can tell you I've known eight Presidents, three of them intimately." 2012

"No one can say a negative thing about Dan Quayle. When he was Vice-President, he built that pool [at the VP's residence]...." 201