Joe Biden summoned more than 200 Democratic insiders to the vice presidential residence Sunday night to chat about the 2012 triumph – but many walked away convinced his rising 2016 ambitions were the real intent of the long, intimate night.
“I took a look at who was there,” said longtime New Hampshire state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, “and said to myself, ‘There’s no question he’s thinking about the future.’ ”
He’s right. Biden, according to a number of advisers and Democrats who have spoken to him in recent months, wants to run, or at least be well positioned to run, if and when he decides to pull the trigger. Biden has expressed a clear sense of urgency, convinced the Democratic field will be defined quickly – and that it might very well come down to a private chat with Hillary Clinton about who should finish what Barack Obama started.
“He’s intoxicated by the idea, and it’s impossible not to be intoxicated by the idea,” said a Democrat close to the White House. And the intoxication is hardly new. Officials working on the Obama-Biden campaign last year were struck by how the vice president always seemed to have one eye on a run, including aggressively courting the president’s donors. Obama aides at times had to actively steer Biden to places where he was needed – like Pennsylvania – because he kept asking to be deployed to Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states.
“He wasn’t just doing fundraising the campaign assigned to him,” said a campaign adviser. “He was inviting people to the mansion to hang out and have dinner.” Biden was way more into the donors than Obama was. “He embraced it with a tirelessness and a gusto that even the president didn’t,” another campaign official said.
There are a number of reasons Biden might take a pass. To be blunt, he’s old. Biden is 70 now and would be 74 if he ran and won. He’s also old news in politics. The guy has been in Washington for almost two generations and hardly signals freshness or political vitality. He’s also run for president twice before and didn’t miss by inches either time; he bombed.
More importantly, Joe Biden is not Hillary. She is a rock star with higher favorable ratings and the capacity to clear the field if she goes all-in. She is also a she – and Democrats are eager to elect the first women after electing the first African-American.
“Things are frozen in place until she makes a decision,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky of Clinton. Dvorsky spent time with Biden this past weekend and praised his personal touch.
A Democrat close to both Biden and Clinton said it is extremely unlikely that they would challenge each other. “They’re both going to build up teams and see how it goes,” the Democrat said. “One of them will fade away, as it becomes more obvious which one of them should be the standard-bearer for the Obama legacy. I can’t see them both announcing for president. But both of them will have teams that try to get to that.”
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