Vice President Biden has not closed the door on a presidential run, according to NBC News sources -- but it is far from clear whether he will enter the 2016 campaign, with much of the Democratic Party already behind Hillary Clinton. These sources confirmed a New York Times report published Saturday that suggested Biden could still enter the presidential race, and that Biden allies have talked to party activists about the viability of a campaign.
Maureen Dowd caused a bit of a stir over the weekend, noting in her New York Times column that Beau Biden encouraged his father, Vice President Biden, to run for president in 2016, before Beau's recent passing. It's not altogether clear why the piece got so much attention -- the anecdote first came to public light nearly six weeks ago.
What is new, however, is chatter about whether the vice president intends to take his son's advice. NBC News' Perry Bacon Jr. reported over the weekend:
The seriousness of the story varied based on which news organization readers turned to first. The New York Times, for example, said Biden and his associates have "begun to actively explore" a national race, including outreach to Democratic "leaders and donors," who've held conversations "through hushed phone calls and quiet lunches."
The Washington Post, meanwhile, was far more circumspect. Biden is "considering" the presidential race, and he and his team have spoken to encouraging voices, "but there is no indication that he has taken any serious steps toward launching what would be a challenging campaign to deny Hillary Rodham Clinton the Democratic nomination."
Those are two very different reports. Which one better reflects where things stand?
For those of us outside the vice president's inner circle, the chatter is obviously speculative, but it's worth keeping a few relevant angles in mind.
First, of course Biden would "consider" a White House campaign. He's is the sitting vice president, serving alongside a successful and fairly popular president. Biden has already sought the Oval Office twice, making clear that this has long been a personal goal, so the real surprise would be reports saying the thought of a 2016 campaign never crossed his mind.
Second, there are degrees of "consideration." It's August 2015 and Biden has hired no campaign staff; he has raised no money; he has opened no field offices; and he's competitive in no polls. I'm not saying this is incontrovertible evidence that the vice president is definitely passing on the race, but at this point in the process, we'd expect to see some evidence of a nascent organization taking shape.
All of which leads to the obvious question: if there's no real proof, what's with all the chatter? Here's a possible explanation: there appears to be some contingents within the political establishment that are -- I hope you're sitting down -- a little hostile towards Hillary Clinton. These insiders aren't overly fond of the idea of Clinton winning the Democratic nomination, and they would welcome, with great enthusiasm, the drama associated with a Clinton-Biden-Sanders showdown. (For these folks, the idea of writing pieces about Clinton running twice, leading twice, and then failing twice brings an unnatural joy.)
The result is an unusual sight: many of the same insiders who've spent years mocking Biden are suddenly touting the idea of his potential candidacy as serious and important.
But wishing won't make it so. The odds of a Biden campaign -- or more specifically, a Biden nomination -- remain long.