Clinton stung by Biden remarks

When Vice President Biden gave Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe media couldn't be more blatant in distorting Trump's words on Charlottesville Road to renewable energy is filled with potholes of ‘magic thinking’ Bernie Sanders: Trump’s Charlottesville comments ‘embarrassing’ MORE’s presidential campaign a slight boost this week, some allies to Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonAssange meets U.S. congressman, vows to prove Russia did not leak him documents High-ranking FBI official leaves Russia probe OPINION | Steve Bannon is Trump's indispensable man — don't sacrifice him to the critics MORE couldn’t help but feel a little bruised. 

“It stung a little, sure,” one longtime ally acknowledged. “How could it not?”

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In an interview with CNN earlier in the week, Biden said Clinton was “relatively new” to talk on income inequality. 

He walked back the comment in an interview on NBC a day later, saying that the former secretary of State is simply engaged in foreign policy for the last five years. 

Sources interviewed in Biden’s camp say that the vice president — known to speak his mind freely and without talking points — meant no ill will by the comments and isn’t choosing sides.

They add that Biden will campaign for Clinton if she becomes the Democratic nominee.

But the comments highlighted a lingering resentment mixed with some grief and regret that still exists in Biden World. 

One source familiar with Biden’s thinking said he wasn’t entirely happy with the Clinton campaign’s tenor in the final throes of his own difficult decision-making process, which culminated in a White House announcement that he would not make a run to be president.

“Toward the end of the process, when he was really trying to make a decision, her team was crapping on him and dropping [opposition research],” the source recounted. “The more they did that, the more it ticked him off.”

“I think the Clinton campaign was trying to box him in and he was saying, ‘I have a lane and a path to win the nomination. I’m the vice president,’ ” the source added. “I don’t think he’s gotten over that.”

The Biden source said that the vice president is still going through the stages of grief when it comes to 2016 and what might have been.

“Look, they’re both hyper-competitive people,” the source said of Biden and Clinton. “And they both wanted to be president for a long time. And here he is, the sitting vice president and he won’t have that chance.”

Another major Democratic fundraiser, who has gotten to know both President Obama and Biden through years of fundraising for their campaigns, took it a step further: “He thinks he would be a better president.”

“And I think he’s the better candidate,” the fundraiser added. “He’s to the left of Clinton and to the right of Bernie. He speaks more to the blue-collar person.”

In the end, the fundraiser continued, “the decision was made for him.” 

The White House has been peppered with questions about Biden since his comments.

“He meant it as a compliment,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday of the comment that the Vermont senator is “speaking to a yearning that is deep and real.”

Earnest added in an interview on Fox News that Biden was “giving credit where it’s due to Sen. Sanders” and that “Democrats are fortunate to have so many candidates on the Democratic side that do both have a strong track record but also are putting forth a good slate of ideas.”

Others close to Biden downplayed the notion of a rift with Clinton, saying he would do whatever it takes to ensure Democrats hold onto the White House in November. 

Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to the vice president, chalked up the comments to “straight-talking Biden calling it like he sees it” but denied that he was trying to damage her candidacy. 

“I don’t think he was implying somehow she would be less effective” than Sanders, Bernstein said. “The fact is that Hillary Clinton has long been an anti-poverty warrior. Literally, as Biden would say, for decades.” 

Clinton also made that point in an interview on CNN when she was asked about Biden’s comments.

“I have been on this issue in many different ways — how do we make education more equal, how do we make healthcare more equal? Of course that’s tied to income inequality,” she said in the interview. “But there’s also a broader range of issues that I have a long record of addressing,” she said before highlighting her work on limiting corporate executive pay and standing up to Wall Street. 

Clinton stopped shy of criticizing the vice president because “it wasn’t much of a hit,” one ally to the former first lady said. 

“If Biden or others claimed that Bernie was better on national security than [Clinton], then I would worry,” the ally said. 

But a Democratic strategist who is in touch with the Clinton campaign said the former secretary of State has to play nice with Biden. 

“She needs him,” the strategist said.