Dems see Biden entering race — and complicating life for Hillary Clinton

Top Democrats increasingly believe Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: US 'preferred a different outcome' on Brexit Abortion is weakness for Clinton VP favorite Overnight Defense: Biden hits Trump on national security | Dems raise pressure over refugees | Graham vows fight over spending caps MORE is going to enter the presidential race, setting up a battle with Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonSanders shares star power with NY House hopeful Trump, Clinton fundraising off Brexit vote UK vote triggers talks with US MORE for the Democratic nomination. 

The Democrats — including former administration officials, strategists and donors — say they foresee Biden causing a problem for Clinton, who has recently suffered a series of setbacks because of the private email controversy that has plagued her campaign. 

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While one former senior aide to President Obama predicts that much of the bleeding and hemorrhaging for Clinton has passed since she apologized for using a private email server while secretary of State, “it solidified a storyline that she’s untrustworthy and she’s got stuff to hide and that could hurt her.”

“She hasn’t had time to move away from the narrative,” the former aide said. “It reaffirms all this s**t about her that no one needs.”

As one strategist and Clinton supporter said: “People are still really nervous about the email situation. They just don’t want to be left in the lurch. With the Clintons, you just don’t know where the other shoes are and when they’re going to drop.”

And that has created an opening for Biden for those who are “looking for the best alternative” to Clinton, the strategist said.

Should he decide to run, the foundation for a campaign is already in place. 

Steve Schale, a Florida-based Democratic strategist who helped Obama win twice in the Sunshine State, recently signed on as an adviser to the super-PAC that is trying to sway Biden to run for president. The group, Draft Biden, already has three to five paid staffers in each of the early-voting states and recently ramped up its digital advertising.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to think this thing isn’t pretty wide open,” Schale said in an interview.

In recent days, the vice president has said he is in no rush to announce a decision to jump into the race. In an interview published Monday with America Media, a Catholic news organization, Biden said he was carefully weighing the decision with his family.

“You have no right, as an individual, to decide to run,” Biden said. “Your whole family is implicated, your whole family is engaged and so, for us, it’s a family decision. And I just have to be comfortable that this will be good for the family.”

Biden made similar comments when he appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” two weeks ago. At the time, he discussed how his son Beau Biden’s death in May had taken a toll on the family.

A CNN poll released Monday showed Clinton expanding her lead nationally against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a fellow contender for the Democratic nomination whom recent polls suggest is leading Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire. 

The national poll was interesting in part because it suggested Biden’s entry into the race could hurt Clinton 

It showed Clinton winning 42 percent of Democratic primary voters compared to 24 percent for Sanders and 22 percent for Biden. Clinton’s edge expanded, with the front-runner winning a majority of supporters, with Biden out of the race. 

“Things are obviously very fluid with [Sanders] doing as well as he’s doing. I think there’s a lot of room for the vice president to grow,” Schale said.

Privately, Democrats acknowledge consternation about the email controversy and Clinton’s slow response and cleanup of the situation. And they worry about what might happen during the rest of the campaign.

“It was sloppy and unnecessary,” one top Democratic donor said of the controversy.

But Clinton allies are telegraphing that they’re exactly where they need to be and not terribly worried about a possible Biden candidacy.

In an interview on CBS’s "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Clinton, who considers the vice president a friend, said her campaign is not preparing for a Biden run. “This is such a personal decision and the vice president has to sort it out,” Clinton said on the program.

In an email to The Hill on Monday, Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson said Biden “deserves the time to consider his options, weigh his priorities and make a decision on a timetable of his own choosing.”

And even if Biden enters the race, some Democratic strategists say it will be good for Clinton to have a solid challenger in the primary.

“Hillary Clinton has proven that she’s a much better candidate when she has a strong competitor,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. “In 2008, she got better as Obama got stronger.”

Still, Simmons added, “It may not feel good to the campaign today — nobody likes doing calisthenics in the morning.

“Running suicide [drills] never feels good but it makes you a better athlete,” he continued. “If she wins, she’ll be ready to take on an active, energized and hungry Republican Party.”