Biden may not decide soon – Politico
DETROIT — Joe Biden may have more time to make up his mind about running for president than most people assume. He and the people planning his potential campaign certainly think so.
Running a primary race — particularly against Hillary Clinton — would require raising millions of dollars, hiring campaign staff and getting very quickly into active operational and organizational mode. He can’t do any of that until he gets in.
Various deadlines have been floated: End of summer, Oct. 1, the first Democratic debate on Oct. 13, the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson dinner Oct. 24. But none of these is looking like a hard deadline. Neither are any of the cutoff dates for getting his name on state ballots.
People who’ve spoken with the vice president say he doesn’t seem in any rush. Earlier in the process, Biden’s staff had been insisting to some reporters that the “end of summer” isn’t technically until Sept. 23. That’s next Wednesday. No one believes at this point that’ll be the cutoff.
Most of Biden’s decision-making is driven largely by his own emotional process. But according to people familiar with the discussions going on in his inner circle, two other factors also loom large: whether Hillary Clinton will implode (and if so, when), and how long he can count on public goodwill toward him lasting.
It turns out that instead of simply deciding yes or no on a presidential run, Biden may have a third option — make no announcement at all, wait until December (or longer) and hope Clinton gets out of the race or is pushed to the sidelines without him having to get in.
The third option would be harder to mount organizationally and emotionally, but it would save him a bitter nomination fight against a former Senate and Obama administration colleague. In effect, it would mean that he could run for president without having to run against Hillary Clinton.
The question that worries his inner circle is how much patience people will have in the meantime for his Hamlet routine.
“They’re testing it,” said one person who’s spoken with the people laying the plans. “They’re feeling it out.”
Drawing the decision out to November has risks, they know: It’s a gamble between whether she’ll implode (perhaps under indictment over her personal email server), whether he could wait so long that she’d rebound (perhaps fueled by strong performances at the debate or in congressional testimony on Oct. 22).
And November isn’t really a deadline, either. Close observers say they’re not convinced Clinton could survive losing Iowa and New Hampshire in February, given the fall from front-runner grace either would entail.
“Oh, Lord, have mercy, yes,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) when asked recently if the Clinton campaign would collapse if she were not able to carry the first two states. “It’s Katie, bar the door. It’s all over.”
But, Clyburn added, Biden would need to be in the race by then if he would hope to do anything about it.
Though Biden falls further behind in the money race each week, the small circle advising him has reached the point in donor outreach when it believes it would have the funds to make the campaign happen.
Instead of holding secret meetings to solicit support, his office is now announcing some, like a get-together he had Wednesday afternoon at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles with the secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Workers Union, which his supporters say he’d be counting on to be competitive in the Nevada primary.
The longer Biden waits, the more his decision looks like a political calculation based on Clinton’s weaknesses or his own strengths, and less like a public clamor for him to jump in, said Democratic presidential campaign veteran Bob Shrum.
“For him, this is not an opportunistic question, so I don’t think he can afford to give the impression that it’s all opportunistic,” Shrum said. “If that’s what people perceive, I think it would erode the authenticity and genuineness that people rightfully attribute to him.”
Already, Biden’s campaign without calling it a campaign has reached a level of ultrasweet cuteness. He took a nonessential trip to California on Wednesday — which just happened to be the night of the first Republican debate a few miles away — followed by a swing through the working-class swing states of Michigan and Ohio. He delivered a Donald Trump-bashing speech to Latino leaders Wednesday night and an appearance at the Congressional Black Caucus over the weekend. Mike Donilon, the outside Biden adviser most in favor of a presidential run, traveled with him on Air Force Two.
“He’s trying to keep the door open as long as he can,” said one former staffer who’s been in touch with his aides. “If you do nothing, then the door just closes on its own.”
In the White House, aides to President Barack Obama say they’re still giving Biden the time and space he needs to decide, recognizing the emotional toll of his son’s death in May. But patience is wearing thinner each day. When Biden began actively exploring the run last month, he and his aides assured the West Wing that he was serious about sticking to his end-of-summer deadline and they still expect him to, people familiar with the conversations say.
Meanwhile, Biden has put his other political activities on hold with aides telling the Democratic campaign committees he won’t do any more fundraisers for other campaigns until he’s made up his mind about his own.
Meanwhile, his aides and the outside operatives working for the Draft Biden organization have taken the limbo time they’ve had so far to lay more of a foundation for a run than they would have had time to otherwise, getting them closer to being prepared if he does jump in.
Taking his time might mean missing deadlines. There are petition and paperwork requirements that will quickly pile up as the end of the year nears. But in the topsy-turvy circumstances that would have to click into place for Biden to have any kind of realistic shot at the nomination anyway, he might have to make the campaign happen without being on the ballot in every state.
Few are convinced that would matter much.
“If he decides to go after all this, it’s not going to matter if he’s missed two filing deadlines,” said Democratic consultant Joe Trippi.
Some even argue there’s a greater good to his holding out.
“I don’t know that it’s the healthiest thing in the world for us to have this prolonged process, with a preseason, a regular season, a postseason,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). “I think the vice president has a significant amount of time to make his decision.”
Biden remains just as up in the air in private as he’s expressed in public, say people
who’ve spoken with him. Depending on the moment, depending on the conversation, they walk away sure that he’s running, or sure that he’ll decide not to.
“There’s no such thing as a Joe Biden forecast,” said one person who knows him well. “You wouldn’t do that on an hourly basis.”
If Biden’s serious about actually running for president, Trippi said, he’s got to move quickly to assess whether he has the support on the ground in the early states, and among key constituency groups, from labor to African-Americans.
But if he’s hoping to just be handed the keys to the Oval Office, he’s got lots of time.
“If you’re waiting for her to implode, just wait. You could wait until June,” Trippi said. “If she implodes next May, the party’s going to turn to Joe Biden.’’