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Eye On Candidates
August 24, 2015

Biden Talk Gets Serious

After several months of stories based on speculation and little else, a flurry of news stories and analysis pieces over the past several days suggest Vice President Joe Biden may be more likely than not to enter the 2016 presidential nomination fight. The Wall Street Journal reported late yesterday that Biden is “leaning toward” a run:

Joe Biden Is Leaning Toward a 2016 Run

Vice President Joe Biden, who has long been considering a presidential bid, is increasingly leaning toward entering the race if it is still possible he can knit together a competitive campaign at this late date, people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Biden still could opt to sit out the 2016 race, and he is weighing multiple political, financial and family considerations before making a final decision. But conversations about the possibility were a prominent feature of an August stay in South Carolina and his home in Delaware last week, these people said. A surprise weekend trip to Washington to meet with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), a darling of the party’s liberal wing, represented a pivot from potential to likely candidate, one Biden supporter said….

For Democrats, Mr. Biden’s meeting with Ms. Warren fueled speculation that he is sounding out support he might receive among those at the party’s progressive base should he seek to challenge Mrs. Clinton. James Smith, a Democratic state representative from South Carolina, said a Biden alliance with Ms. Warren “would be a strong message to primary voters.”

Biden has stated in the past that he would make his decision by the end of the summer (which technically falls on Sept. 23), and for some pretty significant logistical reasons he needs to make his mind up by that deadline if not sooner, as The Washington Post explains. One key takeaway from the Post: Biden can’t wait until after the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary to see how frontrunner Hillary Clinton fares, as some have apparently suggested:

Some Democrats believe Biden’s best bet is to see how Hillary Clinton performs in Iowa and New Hampshire; if her scandals have left her critically wounded, Biden could jump in then. Just one problem there: time.

By Feb. 9, New Hampshire primary day, the filing deadline will have passed for most states. There would be enough time to only enter primaries in a dozen states and about eight caucuses. Those are some massive states – including New York, California, Pennsylvania – but it would be statistically impossible to win the nomination entering the race at that late stage.

The best Biden could hope for in that scenario would be to win enough late states, by big margins, to keep Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or any other insurgent from winning enough delegates to secure the nomination, forcing a brokered convention in Philadelphia in August.

Amid all the Biden buzz, media are scrambling to find anything to report that might bolster or diminish the story. Politico this morning includes a story on Biden’s hiring a new communications director for his vice presidential staff who has “campaign chops,” having worked for 2008 contender John Edwards. The story seems like a bit of a stretch however, given that Biden’s former communications director left in March to work for the president, meaning Biden had a position to fill, and it’s nearly impossible to find a talented and experienced spokesperson at that level who hasn’t worked on somebody’s presidential campaign at one point.

Beyond the hire of a new communications director, Biden’s first task if he decides to run will be staffing up. Another Politico article reports that this would cause considerable angst among many veteran Democratic operatives:

In interviews, current and former White House staffers say that as Biden has ratcheted up the seriousness of his explorations, including having aides reach out to former top political operatives for President Barack Obama to gauge interest, the situation looks very different from when they’d been assuming [Clinton would] be the only real Democratic candidate in 2016. They had convinced themselves that she could be the heir to Obama and the one to protect his legacy, and they were excited about it.

A Biden run would upend that….

“I don’t know what the official line will be,” said one West Wing staffer, “but you will have a lot of people in the building rooting for him.”

“Even if their mind is with Clinton,” the staffer added, reflecting feelings of others heard in the White House, “their heart is with the vice president.”

As the article makes clear later, there are likely to be a number of people who would end up following their heart and be willing to jump onto a Biden campaign:

[A] number of Obama veterans say confidently that there’d be a heavy dose of Obama alumni who’d show up for a Biden campaign.

“I could imagine a lot of hands going up and saying, ‘I love Joe Biden, I’ll do it,’” said another former Obama campaign official. “You’ve got a lot of people who like being the underdog, and that’s how Joe Biden would enter the race, and that’s really appealing….”

That’s already begun to take shape. As Obama alumni are getting emailed résumés from young staffers asking for help finding jobs, some have started responding by asking, Would you consider going to work for the vice president?

They say they’re getting a bunch of yeses.

“There are a ton of people who would go work for him,” said one former Obama aide who’s gotten some of those résumés and had some of those conversations.

Biden would be an underdog, and a late entrant as well – two factors that would probably end the bid of anybody else before it got started. But the power and prestige of the vice presidency combined with growing concerns about Clinton could be the “perfect storm” that might allow Biden to pull off what would otherwise be an impossible task.