Biden Says The Family Is On Board For A 2020 Run

Former Vice-President Joe Biden isn't officially running for President yet, but says his family is on board if he does.

Vice-President Joe Biden has reportedly not made up his mind, but he did reveal that one potential obstacle to that candidacy is on board with the idea:

NEWARK, Del. — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Tuesday that there’s “a consensus” in his family that he should run for president, but Mr. Biden said he did not want to embark on “a fool’s errand” and was still deliberating about whether to enter the race for the Democratic nomination.

“The most important people in my life want me to run,” Mr. Biden said, disclosing that he had a family meeting this month, which included his grandchildren, to discuss whether he should mount what would be his third presidential bid.

In the most detailed and unvarnished accounting yet of his thinking, the former vice president outlined a series of concerns about running. They included whether he would be able to garner enough money and support, and the nastiness of the campaign he predicted President Trump would run against whomever Democrats nominate.

“It would be the greatest honor of my life to be president of the United States, but it’s also something I have to make sure I could run a first-rate effort to do this,” he said.

It is not clear that Mr. Biden planned to speak, at least at such length, about the possibility of running. He was appearing before about 300 people at the University of Delaware to celebrate the naming of the Joseph R. Biden Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration. And he sat on stage for a conversation with the historian Jon Meacham about Mr. Meacham’s book, “The Soul of America,” which examines how the country overcame periods of division and turmoil.

But after the two spoke for over an hour, only hinting and joking about the question that had drawn a handful of reporters here, Mr. Meacham asked Mr. Biden directly about his intentions. (Mr. Meacham told Mr. Biden before the session that he planned to raise the 2020 question, according to an official familiar with their conversation.) The 76-year-old former vice president — who has led in early Democratic primary polls — initially hesitated, praising an audience he said was mostly composed of Delawareans who knew him well. But that only prompted some in the crowd to stir.

“Come on, say it!” one woman shouted.

Mr. Biden said he was “being prodded” by his wife and two children but acknowledged he had been uneasy about “taking the family through what would be a very, very, very difficult campaign” against Mr. Trump. “I don’t think he’s likely to stop at anything, whomever he runs against,” Mr. Biden said.

Four years ago, of course, it was concern about his family that led Biden to decide not to run for President. His oldest son Beau Biden, who had previously been diagnosed with the same type of cancer that ultimately took the life of John McCain, died in June of 2015. Prior to that and, of course, after his son’s death, Biden’s chief concern was focusing on his family and dealing with the loss of a son who he had nearly lost in the 1972 car accident that resulted in the death of his first wife and daughter. As a result, Biden did not begin to focus on the idea of getting into the race for the Democratic nomination until September and October of 2015. By then, the race was well underway and the majority of the Democratic establishment had gotten in line behind Hillary Clinton. As a result of this, Biden decided not to run for President and, of course, the rest is history.

As anyone who knows Biden’s history can attest, the fact that his family is apparently on board with a third White House run, and one that could prove to be very contentious given who the President is, is significant. Many times in the past, Biden has stated that he would never run for office or make a major decision like this without consulting his family, so the fact that he’s disclosing the fact that they’ve given him the “thumbs up” for a run is arguably a signal from Biden himself that he is inclined to run, or indeed may have already decided to run, and that he’s just looking for the right time to get into the race.

In that regard, of course, it’s worth noting that Biden can afford to wait a bit longer than other candidates to get into the race. With the possible exception of Bernie Sanders, who of course ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016, there are no other potential candidates for the Democratic nomination who have the name recognition and political connections that Biden does. Unlike those candidates, Biden does not need to engage in what could be called an “introductory” phase of his campaign where he goes to places like Iowa and New Hampshire introducing himself to voters and Democratic political activists in those states. Additionally, he doesn’t need to create a political network from scratch the way those other candidates do. As a result, he can probably afford to wait until April or so before he gets into the race, much like Hillary Clinton did not get into the race until mid-April of 2015.

If he does get into the race, Biden’s resume certainly indicates that he’s well-prepared to be President. He served for more than thirty years in the United States Senate, of course, during which time he eventually rose to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and, later, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. During his eight years as Barack Obama’s Vice-President, he was heavily involved in the formation of domestic and foreign policy and often served as a liaison between the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress after the 2010 elections, during which time he was often at the center of negotiations regarding fiscal and other disputes between the two branches of government. His experience in foreign policy is quite extensive, and he has interacted with leaders on the world stage for the better part of the past thirty years or so. In other words, he is arguably the most qualified potential Democratic candidate in the 2020 field and perhaps the most qualified they’ve ever run.

In addition to this, Biden’s potential political appeal seems to fit right in with what Democrats need in 2020. While the “progressive” wing of the party may have doubts about him, one cannot deny his appeal with the white working class voters that the party needs to find a way to win back in areas such as the Midwest. To a large degree, many of these people are people who voted for Obama/Biden in 2008 and 2012 and then turned around and voted for Trump/Pence in 2016, The former Vice-President also has strong support among African-American voters, which is important both in the context of a fight for the Democratic nomination and in terms of voter turnout in the General Election.

The problem that Biden faces if he runs is that the same factors that make him what Democrats need in 2020 if they want to beat Donald Trump are factors that could pose a problem for him in running for the Democratic nomination. The Democratic Party that Biden faces in 2019 and beyond is not the same Democratic Party he faced the last two times he ran for President in 1988 and 2008. The forces that pushed those versions of the party to the center-left and away from the more left-wing positions it took in the 1970s and 1980s are now effectively the party establishment and they are facing significant pushback from the “progressivism” represented by candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and others. That wing of the party is likely to be highly skeptical of Biden notwithstanding the fact that he and his fellow “establishment” Democrats agree with them far more than they disagree. Whether they can accept the idea of Biden as the party nominee, even if he selects a young running mate from their wing of the party, could be one of the biggest questions of 2020 if it turns out that Biden does indeed succeed where he has failed twice before.

In any case, Biden passed on a Presidential run four years ago due largely to factors unrelated to politics. This announcement seems to confirm that this is no longer an issue and Biden seems to be convinced that he is the best answer to Donald Trump that the Democratic Party can come up with, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that he’s right. Whether Democratic voters will agree is something we’ll have to wait to find out.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Bill says:

    The obligatory every 10 days to 2 weeks Joe Biden post. Biden is channeling ‘Hamlet’ or is it OTB?

  2. Neil J Hudelson says:

    The whole rollout of Biden’s campaign serves as a great reminder that Biden is not very good at campaigning for President.

  3. Robert C. says:

    Please,, no, no..don’t do it Joe.