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Eye On Candidates
August 3, 2015

Biden Considers Running for President

A number of news stories from a variety of outlets all broke the same news over the weekend: Vice President Joe Biden is seriously considering running for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Here, for example, is The New York Times:

Joe Biden Said to Be Taking New Look at Presidential Run

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his associates have begun to actively explore a possible presidential campaign, which would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton, several people who have spoken to Mr. Biden or his closest advisers say.

Mr. Biden’s advisers have started to reach out to Democratic leaders and donors who have not yet committed to Mrs. Clinton or who have grown concerned about what they see as her increasingly visible vulnerabilities as a candidate.

According to the Times’ report, one reason Biden might enter the race at this late moment is recent polling suggesting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may not be as strong a candidate as previously thought:

The support Mr. Biden has garnered speaks to growing concerns among Democrats that Mrs. Clinton could lose in Iowa and New Hampshire, as the populist message of one of her opponents, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, draws swelling crowds.

“The reality is it’s going to be a tough, even-steven kind of race, and there’s that moment when a lot of party establishment would start exactly this kind of rumble: ‘Is there anybody else?’ ” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist.

At the same time, the slow trickle of news about Mrs. Clinton’s use of private email when she was secretary of state, and the coming Benghazi hearings, may be distracting some voters from the core message of her campaign: the need to lift the middle class.

“It’s not that we dislike Hillary, it’s that we want to win the White House,” said Richard A. Harpootlian, a lawyer and Democratic donor in Columbia, S.C., who met with [Biden chief of staff Steve] Ricchetti before Beau Biden died. “We have a better chance of doing that with somebody who is not going to have all the distractions of a Clinton campaign.”

The possibility of Biden joining the hunt for the 2016 nomination doesn’t seem to be taken too seriously by the Clinton team, at least according to a Politico article over the weekend:

He’s a beloved figure in the Democratic Party, a stand-up guy.

That’s the party line being offered among many Hillary Clinton allies, who, when asked about the latest Biden trial balloon, are quick to stress that they consider him a friend or that they are admirers from afar.

But behind the stated support for the vice president is a harder calculation — that the latest flirtation is the last gasp before Biden puts to bed the possibility of his last shot at the White House, another emotional door closing during what has been a deeply trying and traumatic period in Biden’s life.

The article goes on to note the obstacles to a Biden run would include a lack of preparation and a late start in building the sort of grassroots organization thought necessary to successfully run for the nomination. And The Washington Post noted over the weekend that “[h]ow Biden would fare against Clinton is questionable, given her imposing head start and the fact that both of his previous presidential campaigns, in 1988 and 2008, were wobbly, short-lived endeavors. Some advisers have already begun assisting Clinton, including Ron Klain, Biden's former vice presidential chief of staff and a longtime confidant.”

Despite these problems, Biden remains a viable and attractive candidate – his stature and popularity in the Democratic Party are almost certainly much improved after serving eight years as vice president, and should Clinton continue to look like a weak frontrunner it’s easy to see how Biden could mount a credible challenge to her.