Biden For President?

There's another round of reports about Joe Biden running for President, but I wouldn't put much stock them.


The Huffington Post is reporting that  sources close to Vice-President Joe Biden claim that he is allegedly still thinking about running for President:

Vice President Joe Biden is still very much considering a bid for the White House, people close to Biden say, and will make a final decision at the end of the summer, targeted for September.

The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for early February, meaning Biden would have roughly four months to barnstorm the first-in-the-nation state before the contest turned to New Hampshire.

Front-runner Hillary Clinton has faced a surprisingly tough challenge from democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who is within striking distance in Iowa despite not being registered as a Democrat and trailing far behind in establishment support. Sanders’ surge suggests Clinton could be once again beatable in a Democratic primary.

While Biden is seriously considering the bid, he has by no means decided to pull the trigger.

“He has said he would announce his decision at the end of the summer,” said Ted Kaufman, a former Democratic senator from Delaware and longtime aide to Biden, when asked about Biden’s plans. Kaufman recently went back to work for the vice president in the months preceding Beau Biden’s death so that he could help his old boss and friend through the unspeakably difficult time.

The vice president’s press secretary, Kendra A. Barkoff, denounced the speculation, but kept the door ajar. “The Biden family is going through a difficult time right now,” said Barkoff. “Any speculation about the views of the vice president or his family about his political future is premature and inappropriate.”

This report comes on the heels of another report that appeared in late in The Wall Street Journal that Biden’s sons, both his son Hunter and his late son Beau, had urged their father to run for President in 2016:

When deciding whether to run for office, Vice President Joe Biden has made it a practice to seek his family’s counsel. That advice has included at least two members of his immediate family—his sons—urging him to run for president in 2016, Biden friends and advisers say.

Before his death last month, elder son Beau Biden encouraged his father to get into the race, people familiar with the matter said. And Hunter Biden told a friend in recent weeks he, too, would like to see the vice president wage one more campaign for the White House.

The Biden family’s wishes add an intriguing wrinkle to a Democratic presidential race that has unfolded in unpredictable ways. But a White House official said speculation about the vice president’s political future was premature during this tough time for the family.

National polls show Hillary Clinton is the runaway front-runner. But one rival has gained ground in New Hampshire as revelations surface about Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email account as secretary of state and foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation. A survey last week showed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanderstrailing Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire by just eight points.

Mr. Biden, 72 years old, lost two previous bids for the White House, in 1988 and 2008, and he would enter the 2016 contest as a clear underdog. Yet as a sitting vice president with loyal supporters in states that hold early contests, he has the potential to scramble the Democratic field.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll earlier this month showed that Americans’ image of Mr. Biden is growing more positive. A total of 40% saw him in a favorable light, versus 31% who had a negative view of him. In November 2014, Mr. Biden’s favorability rating stood at 35%, compared with 38% who viewed him unfavorably.

Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, had coffee with Mr. Biden at the White House in May, just days before Beau Biden’s death at 46 from brain cancer. They talked through the possibility of launching a campaign, Mr. Harpootlian said. “It’s no secret that Beau wanted him to run,” he said. “If he does what Beau wanted him to do, he’ll run.”

Vice-President Biden has played something of a cagey came with political reporters and his fellow Democrats when it comes to the question of whether or not he would run for President. While he hasn’t actually announced anything, and he seemingly has not taken any steps at all to even put together the rudimentary framework of a political campaign. At the same, though, Biden hasn’t totally shut the door on 2016 and as recently as March there were news reports suggesting that Biden was genuinely conflicted the race and about the possibility of giving up one last chance at his achieving something that has clearly been a political dream of his for the past three decades. Now, we have these reports as well as the news that Hillary Clinton’s favorability numbers continue to take a hit while Bernie Sanders gains at least some support in the polls and draws crowds that make headlines, which are at least leading some people to wonder if the Vice-President might not decide to jump into the race after all.

Looking at the polls, Biden isn’t in much better shape against Clinton than any of the candidates that already in the race. He’s in third place behind Bernie Sander in the national polls, but his average at 11.5% compared to Sanders at 16.3% isn’t so bad for guy who isn’t actually running right now. In Iowa and New Hampshire, though, he trails Sanders significantly although he’s doing much better than candidates like Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb. Biden actually outperforms Sanders in South Carolina and Florida, although it’s worth  nothing that he trails Clinton significantly in both states and the most recent in either state is nearly a month old now. These numbers are hardly praiseworthy, but they’re at least respectable and they suggest that if Biden did get in the race he’d at least be able to make a good run of it. In the end, though, it seems clear that he isn’t really running.

I have no doubt that Joe Biden would like to be President. He’s run for the office twice, after all, and while he came up short both times that’s obviously not something you do unless you really want the job. Moreover, as a sitting Vice-President he is in a position that, historically, has been very favorable for people running for President, especially over the past century or so. From 1956 to 2004, for example, there were 13 Presidential elections, nine of which had the incumbent as one of the two major party nominees, four (1960, 1968, 1988, and 2000) had the incumbent Vice-President as the nominee, and two (1968 and 1984) had a major party nominee who had once served as Vice-President. Additionally, former Vice-President Dan Quayle was briefly a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2000 before dropping out after finishing eighth in the Ames Straw Poll. The chain was broken in 2008 when Vice-President Cheney declined to run for the Republican nominee (although its doubtful he would have’ won), so the question is whether Biden will follow Cheney’s example or jump into the race.

Despite Biden’s likely ambitions, though, and the pull of history, it seems unlikely to me that he’s actually going to enter the race. First, even though we are still some seven months away from the Iowa Caucuses and the start of the voting phase of the primary, time is actually far shorter than it appears. Running a serious campaign for President involves me than just making speech, and by all accounts there is no indication at all on the ground in states like Iowa and New Hampshire that Biden has done anything to form even the skeleton of a Presidential campaign. Indeed, many of the people in those states that some may have expected would support him have already started working for other candidate, mostly Hillary Clinton. Additionally, Biden seems to be fairly political astute and he can likely read the polls just as well as anyone. Absent some kind of implosion on her part, Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination. Taking her on now, after so much time that could have been done preparing a campaign has passed, would largely be a quixotic effort and while that may appeal to Bernie Sanders it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing the Vice-President would be interested in. As I’ve said before, to the extent he is keeping this speculation alive, it is mostly to keep himself relevant in the waning years of the Obama Administration. Perhaps if Clinton implodes we’ll see Biden jump in the race, but that would be a highly unusual event and seems rather unlikely.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. superdestroyer says:

    Too bad that Vice President Biden could have decided earlier to run so that he could have been booed off the stage at Netroots Nation like O’Malley and Sanders were.

  2. CSK says:

    Is this photo of recent vintage? That’s the saddest face I’ve ever seen. He must have been thinking about Beau when the picture was shot.

  3. James Pearce says:

    @superdestroyer: It’s unsurprising that incident would draw your attention, or that your take on it would be so wrong-headed.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    From 1956 to 2004, for example, there were 13 Presidential elections, nine of which had the incumbent as one of the two major party nominees, four (1960, 1968, 1988, and 2000) had the incumbent Vice-President as the nominee, and two (1968 and 1984) had a major party nominee who had once served as Vice-President.

    The Vice Presidency might be a great idea if want to be nominated for President, but looking at that list it becomes obvious that VP is not a stepping stone to the Presidency (only 2 ever made it and only one of those was a sitting VP when elected)

  5. James Joyner says:

    Were he to run, Biden would probably be my first choice among all the candidates in the field. Alas, that’s problematic for Biden, in that I’m not exactly the target audience for the Democratic nomination.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    @James Pearce:

    I saw the report on CNN first, so no one can just blame Fox News, the Koch Brothers, or the other usual suspects. However, I guess that most progressives will take the lessons that the militants want them to: give the militants what they want and to not ask any questions.

  7. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: True, but you need to keep in mind that in 1960 and 1968 the sitting vp lost the presidential election only very narrowly, and in 2000 of course the sitting vp’s “defeat” was very questionable.

    In any event, I think there are particular reasons why the sitting vp would or would not become the president’s successor. In 2008, the reason Cheney didn’t run was evidently a combination of Bush’s unpopularity and the fact that he wasn’t interested. In the case of Biden, it’s probably a combination of his age and Hillary’s popularity. Age was also a reason why Truman’s vp Alben Barkley didn’t run in 1952.

    Still, I think the larger historical trend is that most presidents who decline to seek another term have a successor from their administration run. For most of the 20th century, that successor has been the vp, but Hoover and Taft had other positions, and for about the first half of the 19th century it was common for a former Sec. of State or Ambassador to run.

  8. Tony W says:

    I was actually a bit surprised Biden did not resign after the 2012 election to be replaced by Hillary or some other hand-picked successor to Obama. Biden just feels unelectable. The power of incumbency has to be tempting for the President. Another 8 years of solid professional leadership in the White House might be enough to turn around the Republicans to the point they become, once again, a loyal opposition.

  9. James Pearce says:

    @James Joyner:

    Were he to run, Biden would probably be my first choice among all the candidates in the field.

    Seconded, but I don’t think he acquitted himself in the vice presidency in any way that makes a case for him in the presidency. (Not that he did anything wrong or scandalous, just nothing that distinguishes him.)

    I also don’t think he has a snowball’s chance in hell against Hillary.


    I guess that most progressives will take the lessons that the militants want them to

    This is my problem with your comment in a nutshell. You didn’t learn anything from the Sanders encounter. It just confirmed what you already knew, which is, “I told you progressives are militants.”

    No. Some people are just assholes. They think their righteous issue gives them license to be indecorous. That’s true of the dumb right-wingers who wave the rebel flag in front of the president and the dumb left-wingers who disrupted Bernie’s speech.

    What you could have learned, though, is that “white lives matter” is an unsatisfactory response to “black lives matter,” because, after all, “white lives matter” has never really been in dispute.

    But nah….just keep on cranking.

  10. TheoNott says:

    His problem is shared with Al Gore, in that they are strong (but not strong enough) candidates that don’t have a ideological constituency. Hillary Clinton is a prodigiously qualified candidate whose issue positions roughly align with the middle of the Democratic spectrum. She’s such a strong candidate that the only way to take votes away from her is to appeal to the ideological fringes of the party. So, James Webb can pull in the 10 percent or so of the Democratic Party that’s moderate and finds Hillary too liberal, and Sanders can capture the 10 percent or so that’s far-left and finds Hillary insufficiently liberal. That leaves Hillary with everyone in between, and there’s nothing left for Biden, Al Gore, etc.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    Biden has suffered the fate of all those who are too right, too early.

    Iraq’s new government of national unity will not stop the deterioration. Iraqis have had three such governments in the last three years, each with Sunnis in key posts, without noticeable effect. The alternative path out of this terrible trap has five elements.

    The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

    Decentralization is hardly as radical as it may seem: the Iraqi Constitution, in fact, already provides for a federal structure and a procedure for provinces to combine into regional governments.

    2006. A few years ahead of the emerging reality, so of course he’s a moron.

  12. Tyrell says:

    “Hillary could once again be beatable in a primary” – lots of ifs. If Sanders keeps surging and getting attention. If Senator Warren goes on the warpath again and starts getting interest.
    As far as Trump goes, he appears to have already imploded. Speaking his mind on legitimate issues is one thing; going weird is something else.
    I heard some of Hillary’s speech at the Iowa Democrats Hall of Fame event. She has some good ideas, but her speech came across as a political science lecture. She also used “trickle down economics” -a term straight out of the ’80’s. Someone needs to update her speeches. Oddly, some hecklers went after Sanders and Martin O’Malley. (Is that the same family that used to own the LA Dodgers?) It didn’t make sense. They took offense at O’Malley’s statement that “all lives matter”. It seems these people only want certain lives to matter. They also took over the stage. The Democratic leadership needs to make sure that radicals and extremists do not take over the party like they did in 1972 when Senator George McGovern ran. McGovern was a WWII combat veteran and an honorable man, but his campaign was a disaster because it was taken over by radical Marxist elements; people who thought that even Ted Kennedy was too conservative. The Democratic party was severely damaged and did not recover until James E. Carter came along; a fine Christian man.

  13. Gustopher says:

    Perhaps he is just positioning himself as a VP contender. He’s far more experienced than anyone else who gets mentioned as VP, and he would make a perfectly adequate President should something happen to the President.

    There has never, in the history of our nation, been someone so perfectly qualified to be VP. The man practically breathes Vice Presidentiality.

    I love Hour Bidden just the way he is — I don’t want him to change anything.

  14. Tony W says:


    The Democratic leadership needs to make sure that radicals and extremists do not take over the party like they did in 1972 when Senator George McGovern ran.

    Umm, probably should take a good look at the opposition…

  15. Tyrell says:

    @Tony W: Good point. It looks like Hillary’s biggest opposition is Sanders, for now. I can’t see a Republican getting within a good ten percent of her lead. And that
    does not consider the electoral map.

  16. al-Ameda says:

    Frankly, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton are preferable to any Republican for the simple fact that the next president will probably have the opportunity to make at least 1 and perhaps 2 nominations to the Supreme Court.

    That said, the political landscape would have to change dramatically – i.e., Hillary takes a big hit – for Biden to have a reason to burn millions on a quixotic run for the nomination.

  17. Tillman says:

    He’s the presidential candidate we need, not the one we deserve. He’s got a base that would put up with his goofy antics if they thought they didn’t need the respectability of a Clinton. But the Democrats are desperate to retain the presidency.

  18. dmhlt says:

    No, not recent.

    It dates from at least Dec. 8, 2014. It was popular to use it in humorous memes making fun of Joe.

    Not sure beyond that of its exact provenance.

  19. Tyrell says:

    @al-Ameda: Supreme Court nominations: it would be better if all of them resigned and the rules were changed to allow direct elections of the court justices, instead of these political payback appointments.

  20. MarkedMan says:

    Maybe the ideal scenario: Biden runs, then drops out after Super Tuesday, gives a ringing endorsement to Hillary Clinton, and then is appointed her Secretary of State.

  21. Tyrell says:

    @superdestroyer: “booed off the stage at Netroots Nation like O’Malley and Sanders were” – interesting event. Here you have two liberal candidates being heckled by an extremist, radical group that should have been arrested and locked up. O’Malley had spoken that “all lives matter” and they jumped him for that ? That showed the agenda of this group: division. They even got on the stage and took the microphones. This in itself is a serious, dangerous security breach. Where was security ? Is the Secret Service not supposed to be there, protecting these candidates ? O’Malley later backed down and gave some sort of apology. A big mistake that made him look weak and could hurt the Democrats. You don’t back down and accommodate these extremist groups.
    As I have stated previous times, the Democrats can ill afford to have a takeover by these sort of radical insurrectionists, whose goal is some sort of Marxism.
    That is what happened to the McGovern campaign of 1972. I think they lost almost every state.