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A tale of two Vice Presidents: Biden, Pence start making moves

Joe Biden is raising eyebrows with his latest political moves, but it's Mike Pence who's starting to blaze an unexpected electoral trail.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Riverfront Sports athletic facility on Aug. 15, 2016 in Scranton, Pa. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty)
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Riverfront Sports athletic facility on Aug. 15, 2016 in Scranton, Pa.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently out of public office for the first time since 1972, but he's keeping awfully busy for a guy in retirement. Biden frequently makes public appearances; he's increasingly involved with ongoing elections; he's making stops in early primary states; and as the New York Times reported yesterday, the Delaware Democrat is now forming a new political action committee.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is planning to create a political action committee, the most concrete sign yet that he intends to remain active in the Democratic Party and is considering a presidential bid in 2020.The PAC, which Mr. Biden intends to unveil on Thursday, will offer the former vice president a platform he can use to nurture relationships with donors, travel on behalf of the party and contribute to candidates in the two governor's races in November and in next year's midterm elections.He has tapped a former aide in his vice-presidential office and a veteran of President Barack Obama's White House campaigns, Greg Schultz, to help lead it.

The name of the PAC will be "American Possibilities."

For the record, I'm skeptical that Biden, who's already run two unsuccessful presidential campaigns, will throw his hat in the 2020 ring. He is, after all, 74, which means by the next Inauguration Day, Biden will be 78 -- which means he'd be nearly a decade older than the oldest American president ever elected (who happens to be Donald Trump). There's also the fact that the former VP told reporters, just last month, "Guys, I'm not running."

So why form a PAC? Perhaps for the most traditional of reasons: because he has a donor base and wants to help elect like-minded candidates.

What strikes me as every bit as interesting, if not more so, is what Biden's successor is up to.

Politico reported this week that current Vice President Mike Pence is "embarking on a cross-country summer campaign tour," which isn't usually the sort of thing we see from a sitting VP six months into his first term.

Pence is mapping out a schedule that will take him through several Midwestern battlegrounds and to traditionally conservative Southern states like Georgia, where an unexpectedly competitive June special-election runoff is alarming party strategists. The vice president will also attend a series of Republican Party events that will draw major donors and power brokers, where talk about 2018 is certain to be front and center. [...]Pence has already formed a political action committee, the Great America Committee, enabling him to raise money for candidates who need help in 2018, an unusual move for a sitting vice president. And his upcoming effort to strengthen ties to the party's rank and file and connect with key donors is likely to fuel the perception that Pence wants to fortify his position atop the party independent of his relationship to President Donald Trump.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. No one can say with certainty whether Donald Trump's scandals will bring his presidency to a premature end, elevating Pence to the Oval Office ahead of the 2020 race.

The fact that Pence is taking steps to cultivate his own political brand, distinct from Trump's, is emblematic of the unusual political circumstances Republicans find themselves in -- and if the president stops to think about this for a minute, it'll probably infuriate him.