Efforts to Draft Biden for 2016 Gain Steam
While Hillary Clinton is viewed by many as a political powerhouse who will cruise to the Democratic presidential nomination, there may be room for a familiar face to challenge her: Joe Biden.
The newest indication that the vice president could jump into the race comes from a Wall Street Journal report, which cites friends and advisers who say Biden, 72, received encouragement to do so from sons Beau and Hunter. Beau Biden died last month after a long battle with brain cancer.
Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state during President Obama’s first term and worked closely with Biden, is the overwhelming frontrunner to become her party’s standard-bearer, but many Democratic insiders say Biden could present a formidable challenge should her campaign falter.
“He feels strongly about his dad running and serving,” James Smith, a Democratic state representative in South Carolina, told the Journal of Hunter Biden’s sentiments. Dick Harpootlian, former chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, added: “If he does what Beau wanted him to do, he’ll run.”
Thousands of others have also signaled their support for a White House bid by the vice president. Draft Biden 2016, a super PAC that is laying the groundwork for a potential campaign in early voting states, has gathered more than 90,000 signatures to support that effort.
“We think it’s great,” Executive Director William Pierce said of the Journal report in an interview with RealClearPolitics. “We’re excited to see more and more people closer to the vice president urging him to run.”
Some question his viability in a race that is already dominated by the juggernaut Clinton campaign. According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Biden is in second place in the Democratic race with 12.8 percent support, behind by more than 50 percentage points.
But Pierce says Biden’s numbers are actually encouraging, noting that he’s polling ahead of declared candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley without having even formed an exploratory committee.
“It’s still very early, but it’s a game-changer if the vice president enters the race,” said Pierce, a veteran of Obama for America.
A similar campaign to draft Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fell flat when the progressive warrior said once and for all she would not seek the Oval Office in 2016. Many of her supporters, however, have flocked to Sanders, who champions a similar message of economic populism.
Asked to make the case for Biden over Hillary Clinton, Pierce zeroed in on experience. Biden served as a senator from Delaware for 36 years, chairing influential committees including Foreign Affairs and Judiciary. In addition to his long tenure in the upper chamber, Pierce said, Biden has been President Obama’s point man for negotiations on Capitol Hill, adding that the vice president’s efforts in brokering a budget compromise “averted a government shutdown” in 2011.
Pierce avoided speculation when asked if he thinks fulfilling Beau Biden’s wish would serve motivation for the vice president to run, but said he “could view that as encouragement” on Biden’s part.
Pierce, an Iraq War veteran, recalled the vice president’s suggestion in 2006 that Iraq be split into “three largely autonomous regions” consisting of Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi’ites – “with a viable central government in Baghdad.” It is something that struck Pierce personally, though many wrote off such a proposal at the time. But now that ISIS continues to advance in the region and such sectarian divisions are already apparent, “even Republicans are saying we should’ve done that,” Pierce said.
Biden, who unsuccessfully sought the Oval Office in 1988 and 2008, has left the door open for a 2016 campaign in recent years.
“I can die a happy man never having been president of the United States of America,” Biden said in a 2013 GQ profile. “But it doesn’t mean I won’t run.”
He continued: “The judgment I’ll make is, first of all, am I still as full of as much energy as I have now – do I feel this? … Number two, do I think I’m the best person in the position to move the ball? And, you know, we’ll see where the hell I am.”
Asked by CNN in February 2014 to name a reason he shouldn’t run, Biden said there are “no obvious reason[s].” More recently, he told ABC News “there is a chance” he will challenge Clinton, adding that the race is “wide open” on both the Democratic and Republican sides.
The next month will be crucial for the advocacy group’s field organizing, as Biden is expected to make a decision on whether to run by early August. Draft Biden announced on Monday that it is expanding its efforts in key primary states, hiring experienced politicos as state directors in New Hampshire and Iowa.
“Our team has come a long way since our humble beginnings of two people in my living room back in March,” Pierce said in a statement. “With positive momentum all across the board, we are going all in to encourage the Vice President to run for President ahead of his potential August 1st announcement.”
A Clinton campaign spokesman did not return a request to comment on the possibility of the vice president jumping into the contest.