The Biden Speculation Continues
Thanks in part to a slow summer news cycle, the speculation about Vice-President Biden entering the race for President seems to be reaching a fever pitch.
The speculation about Vice-President Biden possibly entering the race for President, which started earlier this summer and has steadily ramped up since the beginning of the month was fed again over the weekend with two news items that seem clearly meant to at least advance the possibility that Biden will be entering the race. First, there was the report on Saturday that Biden had changed his plans to stay in Delaware over the weekend to return to Washington and meet with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren at the Vice-President’s Residence.s As any story like this is apt to do on weekend during the summer’s slow news season this led many political pundits and analysts to wonder what Biden and Warren might have been talking about. Personally, I kind of liked Daniel Drezner’s theory, obviously sent in jest, that Biden was basically trolling the media, but it seem logical to assume that there was at least some discussion of Biden possibly entering the race, though I doubt it was anything as specific as some of the theories that were tossed about on social media about an Biden/Warren ticket. Even if it didn’t go that far, though, the news that the Vice-President had met with someone who, until not too long ago, was seen by some in the Democratic Party as a potential Presidential candidate herself notwithstanding the fact that she continually denied any interest in the job, was bound to stir up speculation about Biden’s intentions. Indeed, one suspects that the story would not have even made the news had Biden’s team not wanted it to make the news.
On top of the news about the Biden/Warren meeting, there’s a report in The Wall Street Journal that the Vice-President is leaning toward getting into the race:
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.
“The vice president has not made a decision about his political future,” Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said. “Anyone speculating that he has made a decision is wrong.”
Mr. Biden would enter as a clear underdog. Polling shows Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton running far ahead of the vice president, who would be building a campaign team largely from scratch. Mrs. Clinton, who declared her candidacy four months ago, has a robust campaign operation and an outside super PAC raising money on her behalf.
Still, the vice president’s deliberations illustrate how, with just six months before the first presidential nominating contests, both major parties’ campaigns are in a state of flux. Democrats are increasingly insecure about Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy, given her dipping approval ratings and continuing questions about her use of a private email server while secretary of state. Republicans, meanwhile, are struggling to find the proper tone in reacting to Donald Trump, whose no-holds-barred campaign style is dominating coverage of the GOP contest and nudging top contenders into uncomfortable sound bites.
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.”
As is always the case with reports like this, it’s worth taking these representations of what is on the mind of a prospective candidate with a grain of salt. Sometimes, the sources that these reports rely on are people who are trying to urge the candidate to run by creating what appears to be the momentum of growing support. Other times, the sources behind these stories are people who like to make it seem as though they are closer to the corridors of power than they actually are, meaning that there reports of what the prospective candidate is thinking is little more than rank speculation. Sometimes, though, these reports are part of a conscious effort by the prospective candidate himself or those around him to at least lay the ground work for a potential campaign. That’s what seems to be going on here. Since the beginning of the month, we’ve seen a number of reports about Biden giving the idea of getting into the Presidential race a closer look, starting with a prominent story in The New York Times that was tied with a Maureen Dowd column that included information that only could have come from someone close to the Vice-President. Just last week, the Times was out with an report stating the Hillary Clinton’s recent missteps on questions regarding her use of a private email server while Secretary of State and concerns about declining poll numbers were factoring into Biden’s decision making process. At the very least, it seems clear that the Vice-President and those close to him want to create the impression that he might enter the race, and part of the process in doing that is leaking stories saying that he is “leaning” in that direction.
Despite all of this, though, ABC’s Rick Klein notes the many caveats that surround a Biden run:
Agita does not necessarily mean an opening. That’s an important distinction to Vice President Joe Biden, as he considers a run that would inject high drama and countless new storylines into what was supposed to be a march dictated by inevitability for Hillary Clinton. We know Biden would bring name recognition, deep experience, and a zeal for running that couldn’t be matched. We also know that he’s 0-2 in presidential races already, and that his own worst enemy tends to speak for himself — literally. There may be no moment that’s more favorable to a potential Biden candidacy than this one, with Clinton’s email controversy interrupting the summer only by the utterings of Donald Trump. That’s different, though, than a grassroots yearning for Biden. When it comes down to it, he’s neither generationally nor ideologically all that distinct from Clinton. That means the differences would have to come in tone (check) and, pretty quickly, where he seeks out divisions. Biden is not a natural intra-party attacker, and that could very well be what it takes to defeat the frontrunner.
Over at The Washington Post, meanwhile, Paul Kane and Elise Viebeck discuss the issue of timing and whether it might already be too late for Biden to get into the race if he wants to run a credible campaign:
Many observers think he’s already too late. Recent history has not been kind to late-entry candidates (Rick Perry, August 2011; Fred Thompson, early September 2007; Wesley Clark, mid-September 2003). None of them, however, were a sitting vice president with universal name recognition. So, we wait for Biden.
There are several key events, however, that will force action. The first Democratic debate is Oct. 13, and Biden has a standing invite, but only if he’s an announced candidate by then.]
The next big target dates: Nov. 9-10. That is when the first deadlines arrive for getting on primary ballots, starting with Arkansas and Texas. And through the rest of November and December come 11 more ballot deadlines, including the all-important vote in New Hampshire (Nov. 27 deadline) and massive states with a huge delegate hauls at stake such as Florida, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia.
So, logistically speaking, early November is the drop-dead, latest point anyone could get into the race and assure ballot access in all critical states.
Several weeks ago, reports were saying that Biden was likely to announce his intentions by the end of the summer, which would mean sometime at around Labor Day. Even at that time, though, many observers noted that Biden likely would want to remain in Washington during the debate over the Iran nuclear deal to help the Obama Administration lobby members of the House and Senate, and that the threat of government shutdown at the end of the month over funding for Planned Parenthood might mean his skills at dealing with members of the Legislative Branch would be needed then as well. That would eat up most of the month of September, though, and while it’s possible that Biden could get in then and still be able to put the kind of organization he’d need to get on the ballot before the November deadlines start kicking in, it would be a close call indeed. For that reason, I suspect we may hear from the Vice-President sooner rather than later.
Whether Biden is a serious candidate or not, though, it seems as though Hillary Clinton’s supporters aren’t wasting much time in trying to undermine any potential campaign. While the campaign itself will not officially comment on the possibility of Biden entering the race, some of the surrogates that speak in support of the campaign are already in action. Yesterday, for example, James Carville fired a shot across Biden’s bow when he reminded everyone that Biden doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to running for President. Carville is right, of course, and Biden’s past history is one of the reasons I tend to discount the theories that he would be as serious a threat to Clinton as many people seem to think he would. At the same time, though, while Carville isn’t directly affiliated with the campaign he is obviously a Clinton partisan so it’s interesting that he chose to go there at this point in time when it isn’t even clear that the Vice-President will enter the race.
In any case, we won’t know for sure what Biden will do until he tells us. For the moment at least, it seems fairly clear that he wants to create the impression that he might very well be challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. At the very least, that would make what promises to be a rather boring contest on the Democratic side where the outcome seems foreordained a little more interesting.