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Is Beau Biden Democrats' Next Emerging Star?

Is Beau Biden Democrats' Next Emerging Star?

By Erin McPike - November 9, 2012

Talk of the 2016 presidential election has already begun, and though Democrats like what they see in terms of demographic trends in the electorate, they also have a weakness to consider at this point: The bench of potential contenders for the next election -- aside from Hillary Clinton, who has said she will not run -- is thin, especially in comparison to the GOP’s.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Indiana Gov.-elect Mike Pence all have promising futures. Some of them may run for president in 2016; others may wait.

To contend with that impressive list -- not just in 2016 and beyond, but also to prosecute the party’s case on key issues facing the public -- Democrats need to cultivate a strong field of their own. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has been visible nationally as the head of the Democratic Governors Association and is widely expected to contemplate a presidential bid, but prospects are otherwise diffuse.

One who has begun to emerge is Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of the vice president. In the final months of the 2012 election, he functioned prominently as an Obama surrogate.

“The sky's the limit for him,” said Matt Miller, a former spokesman for both the Justice Department and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Whether it's the next open Senate seat or governor, he has all the talent and has earned the goodwill to run for whatever he wants."

Miller also speculated that Biden would be considered for a Cabinet position in the Obama administration “if it wasn't for his dad being VP.” A major in the Army National Guard, Biden is also an attorney who received his law degree from Syracuse University after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. He spent five years working for the Justice Department, ending that part of his career as a federal prosecutor. He entered private practice for two years before being elected Delaware’s attorney general, a role that has earned him praise for his handling of several high-profile cases.

In national politics, he also shines. Biden took to the spin room after the vice presidential debate in mid-October and defended his father’s demeanor. (Joe Biden’s laughter and expressions of incredulity were criticized by some as excessive and disrespectful; Beau Biden said he liked seeing him smile.) He’s gone before TV cameras frequently in the past few months, offering a vibrant defense of the Obama administration. And he’s given well-received speeches at the past two Democratic conventions.

The vice president’s son was also scheduled to campaign with the second lady throughout North Carolina and Virginia in the final weeks of the presidential race. Both states have a heavy military presence, and the Obama campaign was dispatching him to connect with those audiences in light of his 2008 deployment to Iraq. Many of his appearances were scrapped, however, because of Hurricane Sandy.

One of the cancellations occurred at the very last minute. At the Lynchburg (Va.) City Armory on the Saturday before the storm hit, the vice president opened his remarks by saying that his son had been with him aboard Air Force Two as it was about to take off. But a sudden change of plans was in store. Biden said his son told him: “Dad, the governor has just called up the National Guard. I’m going home.”

Apparently the younger Biden’s activities and abilities have been noticed. In late October, Newt Gingrich appeared on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” and offered him a back-handed compliment.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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