Crunch time for Joe Biden


Vice President Biden has little time to decide whether Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump points to 'vote flipping' in Texas Poll: Top healthcare priority is drug prices, not ObamaCare Poll: Clinton up 7 on Trump in Pa. MORE’s problems have opened up a lane for his third presidential bid.

With less than six months to go before the Iowa caucuses, Biden has to make a decision fast on whether to take on Clinton in what would be a decidedly underdog campaign. 

“You can always raise a little more money, you can always recruit a little more volunteers, but you can’t put days back on the calendar,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. 

“You can’t just throw together a national campaign on the fly, it takes a while.” 

There’s no doubt that Biden is mulling a run. 

With Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate Dems target Wells Fargo auditor Trump aide: 'We have three major voter suppression operations under way' Clinton: AT&T deal 'raises questions and concerns' MORE (I-Vt.) topping Clinton in one poll of New Hampshire voters, and the controversy surrounding the former secretary of State’s private email server swirling, it’s also true that the Democratic front-runner looks vulnerable. 

“The email scandal has to play into the calculus here,” said Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “The fact that Biden is even considering this reflects that there are people in the Democratic Party establishment that are concerned that Clinton isn’t going to be able to hold up.”

A report in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday said Biden has been meeting with allies during his vacation in the early primary state of South Carolina in serious consideration of a bid. The report adds that Biden will likely announce a decision in September. 

South Carolina Rep. James Smith (D), a longtime Biden supporter who endorsed his presidential campaign in 2008, told The Hill that a group of Palmetto State supporters are coalescing behind a potential bid. 

“I have talked with individuals that have met with the vice president this week and expect to be hearing from him, he’s talked to a number of folks,” he said.

Smith added that he met with Biden’s son, Hunter, in June, where it was made clear that the Biden family supports a potential bid for president. But Smith repeated that both he and the Biden family know the final decision is up to him.  

Polls have not offered Biden, who will turn 73 in November, much encouragement that a challenge to Clinton would be successful. 

Most show that he garners no more than 13 percent of those surveyed nationally, as well as in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. 

And despite Clinton’s problems, she has a massive warchest and a huge lead in primary states. 

In Skelley’s mind, Biden’s team should be anxiously awaiting new national poll results to gauge the controversy’s impact on the field. While national polls have shown a decline among perceptions of Clinton’s trustworthiness, she has largely held strong with Democrats. 

“If you see those numbers among Democrats fall, that would be a true warning sign that this is really actually having an impact and that would probably encourage Biden more,” he said. 

“But if the numbers stay relatively flat, then I think that would probably [dissuade] Biden.” 

While Bannon would expect Biden to move at a “lot quicker pace” if he were seriously weighing a bid, he thinks the leaks about a potential run might be part of a strategy to keep one foot in the door. 

“Starting with the Maureen Dowd article a few weeks ago, this is a well-orchestrated trial balloon on Biden’s part and basically he’s running it up the preverbal flagpole of his candidacy to see if anyone salutes,” he said. 

“I also think as part of it, he wants to keep his options open in case the Clinton campaign blows up.” 

The Draft Biden super-PAC sees the South Carolina meetings and other signals as “very promising,” said William Pierce, the group’s executive director. He believes the Clinton email controversy only underscores the need for more candidates in the primary, and that Biden’s resume and down-to-earth reputation makes him the perfect fit. 

“At this point, Hillary is not ready to go up against the 14, 15, 16 candidates on the Republican side,” Pierce, the group’s executive director, told The Hill.  

Biden isn't the only candidate who has been mentioned this week as a potential rival to Clinton.

Buzzfeed reported Thursday that supporters of former Vice President Al Gore have raised the prospect of a bid, but that no concrete steps have been taken and Gore has not commented. 

And while Biden has remained publicly silent on his intentions, Pierce is encouraged by the difference between this effort and that to draft Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate Dems target Wells Fargo auditor Poll: Clinton up 9 on Trump in NH The Trail 2016: Comeback in the works? MORE (D-Mass.) into the race.

“All along with Ready for Warren’s draft movement, they had Sen. Warren from Day a saying, ‘No, no, no, no, no,” he said.

“We’ve started this in March, we haven’t seen any smoke signals, we haven’t heard anything, we haven’t seen the vice president going on TV at all to say, ‘No, I’m not going to run.’ ”