As Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign faces challenges, signs are mounting that Vice President Joe Biden may mount a run of his own.
On Saturday, Biden met with Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the party’s liberal wing, for an hour-long lunch in his Washington, D.C., residence. The two discussed issues important to progressives and the primary campaign, NBC News reported. Biden did not directly ask Warren — who has so far rebuffed progressive calls for her to run — for her support.
“The opening for Joe Biden is, he’s the original authentic candidate,” Josh Alcorn, a senior adviser to Draft Biden 2016, told msnbc’s Luke Russert Monday.
Alcorn’s support for the Draft Biden movement may itself reveal growing openness to the idea of a run within the Biden camp. Alcorn worked as a top aide to Beau Biden, the vice president’s son who served as Delaware’s attorney general and died in late May of a brain tumor. According to reports, Beau Biden urged his father to run shortly before his death.
Asked Monday afternoon about a possible Biden run, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest seemed to encourage the idea. Earnest noted that President Obama has called his decision to add Biden to the ticket in 2008 “the smartest decision he had ever made in politics,” adding: “That should give you some sense of the president’s view of Vice President Biden’s aptitude for the top job.”
Earnest declined to say the same about the choice of Clinton as secretary of state, though he said the president has had warm words for her, too.
Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator whose progressive campaign for the Democratic nomination has generated large and enthusiastic crowds, on Monday addressed the rumors that Biden was considering a run and suggested the two men had spoken about the possibility.
“I’ve known Joe Biden for many years—we served in the Senate together for six years—and you’re not going to find a guy who’s more decent that Joe Biden is,” Sanders told a gaggle of reporters in New Hampshire, where he’s campaigning. “What I promised Joe if he decides to get into the race is that I will as I have done up to now run an issue oriented campaign. Joe’s views I suspect and I know on a number of issues are different than mine.”
Biden also has met recently with Jim Webb, the former Virginia senator who has launched his own long-shot campaign for the Democratic nomination, Webb revealed Sunday during an appearance on CNN. “It doesn’t surprise me that he’s sitting there and talking to someone who has a strong record on economic fairness issues,” the candidate said.
And Monday, Biden announced in a statement that he’d hired Kate Bedingfield as communications director for his vice presidential office. Bedingfield was a spokeswoman for John Edwards’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Citing people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday evening that Biden is increasingly leaning toward running — if he can put together a competitive campaign.
“The Vice President has not made a decision about his political future. Anyone speculating that he has made a decision is wrong,” Kendra Barkoff, a Biden spokeswoman, told msnbc via email.
And as rumors continued to swirl late Monday, with CNN reporting that President Obama had had given Biden his “blessing” to run over lunch, Biden spokesman Kendra Barkoff confirmed that the two leaders had, in fact, dined together, but again told msnbc, “Sources continue to speculate about something they know nothing about. This lunch was a private meeting between two people – the President and the Vice President.”
The news comes amid growing concern among Democrats about Hillary Clinton’s campaign. A series of reports have raised questions about the former secretary of state’s use of a private email server, and a federal probe is underway into the system’s security. The revelations appear to have damaged her approval ratings, especially on qualities like honesty and trustworthiness. Still, Clinton holds a comfortable lead in the race, including in polls where Biden is included.
Gov. Jerry Brown of California said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that Biden should give running “very serious consideration.” He compared Clinton’s email story to “a vampire,” adding: “She’s going to have to find a stake and put it right through the heart of these emails in some way.”
But with the Iowa caucuses less than six months away, a Biden candidacy would face its own challenges, especially in raising money and building an organization in key early states. To date, the push for Biden to enter the race has come largely from East Coast political operatives, rather than being driven by any groundswell of popular support. To be viable, it likely would need to pull support away from Sanders. And Biden would be 74 by January 2017 — making him by far the oldest president to take office.
Howard Mandel, a Los Angeles doctor, Democratic fundraiser, and long-time Biden backer, told msnbc it wouldn’t be hard for Biden to build a campaign should he decide to run.
“People are reaching out to me because they know I’ve been a long-term supporter of the vice president, saying to me, ‘listen, the minute he jumps in, I’m there.’ There’s a lot of people who are currently unhappy with Secretary Clinton’s campaign,” Mandel said. “I don’t think he’d have a problem putting together a formidable campaign.”
“He’s honest, he’s trustworthy, he’s straightforward,” Mandel said of Biden. He contrasted the vice president with Clinton, who he said has “lost the trustworthy issue.”