By Amie Parnes - 07/03/14 06:00 AM EDT
Vice President Biden is doing everything he can to make sure people don’t forget that it’s not just Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonPoll: Races for president, Senate tight in North Carolina Race still matters: Why race should be part of first debate Poll: Clinton leads Trump in Virginia MORE who has an interest in the White House in 2016. He does, too.
After Clinton struggled to contain criticism of her lofty personal finances, there was Biden last week, highlighting his every-man status.
While numerous news reports later sought to disprove that fact — 2013 filings show Biden has a joint savings account with holdings ranging from $1,001 to $15,000 — it showed he was looking for an opening, observers say.
“It’s almost like he’s saying, or rather, screaming, ‘Don’t forget about me!’ ” said one former White House official.
Or as Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons put it: “When a political opportunity presents itself, it’s really hard not to swing at that ball.
“It’s hard to resist a moment to differentiate yourself,” Simmons added. “Politicians run for office; that’s what they know how to do. Until they’re not running, they’re always running for reelection. And until he decides not to run for president, he’s gotta be as forward-leaning as possible.”
To be sure, the vice president’s allies insist Biden hadn’t said anything last week that he hasn’t said before.
Earlier this year, for example, while speaking at the North American International Auto Show, he told the crowd that he “made a commitment in 1972 when I ran that I’d never own any stocks or bonds. I never have. That’s why I’m listed as the poorest guy in the Congress.”
The vice president has a solid friendship with both Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, according to sources on both sides. Biden had asked Bill Clinton for advice before entering the 2008 primary. And when President Obama was considering Clinton as secretary of State, Biden spoke up in favor of the decision. During her tenure at State, she and the vice president met for breakfast at the Naval Observatory whenever the two were both in town.
Still, political observers also couldn’t help and view things through a 2016 lens, when Biden posed for a selfie with singing sensation Katy Perry last week. The photo, after all, came a couple of days after the singer had posed for a picture with Clinton and also offered to write a 2016 campaign theme song. Clinton publicly tweeted at Perry to suggest that she had already written her one — her hit song “Roar.”
While the Perry incident may be chocked up to pure coincidence, it’s caused some to read between the lines.
“Nothing in politics is coincidence,” another former White House aide said. “Sure it was a fun moment, but it’s also a serious one.”
Biden, the former aide added, has always wanted to be president. And without the prospect of a Clinton candidacy, he would be the inevitable candidate, as most vice presidents are by tradition.
“It’s gotta be a little irritating for him because of the fascination with Hillary,” said Martin Sweet, an assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University. “It’s a really peculiar case. It has to be personally challenging for him.”
And, as one Democratic strategist surmised, “He knows what he’s doing.”
“The thing is, everyone — including Hillary — is trying to figure out how to handle this strange and awkward time. They’re all trying to keep their names out there and their options open.”
As 2016 inches closer, observers say it’ll be interesting to see how Biden ratchets up the rhetoric to keep his name in the mix. The vice president, who has made it known he’d like to run for president again, has keep a high profile in recent days. This week, for instance, he was at Obama’s side as the president spoke about how he would use executive action on immigration. And he also attended Obama’s announcement to tap Robert McDonald, as secretary of Veterans Affairs.
As one strategist said, “He’s making it clear he’s very much in the picture.”