Biden leaves options on table for another White House bid

Biden leaves options on table for another White House bid
© Greg Nash

Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBiden: Trump family separation policy could make the US a pariah Elizabeth Warren can unify Democrats and take back the White House Giuliani doubles down on Biden comments: 'I meant that he’s dumb' MORE is keeping all his options on the table for a presidential bid in 2020.

The former vice president, 74, has spent his days working on causes for his foundation and crisscrossing the country to help Democratic candidates in 2018.

Sources close to Biden say he learned lessons from the 2016 election cycle that could prove helpful in a 2020 run.

He’s told people around him that Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance Melania Trump puzzles with 'I really don't care' jacket Grassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report MORE wasn’t a good candidate because she fell “out of touch” with parts of the Democratic base. It is a factor that cost her the election, he has bemoaned to friends time and again.

After seeing the blowback endured by Clinton and more recently former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOvernight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos Clarifying the power of federal agencies could offer Trump a lasting legacy Dems allow separation of parents, children to continue, just to score political points MORE, Biden is “purposefully” steering clear of paid speeches to corporations or taking on corporate work, as one Biden ally put it.

Biden, sources say, regrets not running for office in 2016, and if he does decide to run again, he doesn’t want unforced errors to hamper his chances.

“My sense from talking to him is that he would love the opportunity to do it,” one Democratic operative close to Biden said of a potential White House run. “He’s doing the things he needs to do, he’s stepping up to be a leader of the party — and the party needs it — and his poll numbers look good.”

A Morning Consult and Politico poll released on Monday shows Biden leading handily among other potential Democratic candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFederal court rules consumer bureau structure unconstitutional Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix MORE (Mass.).

While the poll could be interpreted in part as a measurement of Biden’s name recognition, the results still showed that 74 percent of Democratic voters have a favorable view of the former vice president, compared to 51 percent for Warren and 45 percent for Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix Richard Painter puts out 'dumpster fire' in first campaign ad Bill Clinton says 'norms have changed' in society for what 'you can do to somebody against their will' MORE (D-Minn.). Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBernie Sanders: Trump thinks like an authoritarian Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Trump's America fights back MORE (I-Vt.) was not included in the poll.

Aides and confidants — including Biden’s longtime friend and former chief of staff Ted Kaufman — say it’s “too soon” to be making decisions about a presidential bid.

Biden, they say, is focused on his work at his foundation and at the Penn Biden Center, a venture with the University of Pennsylvania that gives him a base for work on national security and diplomacy. He’s also keeping busy with speaking engagements at university commencements and Democratic Party functions.

While his advisers have stopped shy of calling him the leader of the Democratic Party, they say Democrats are looking to him for answers on how to rebuild coming off the 2016 election cycle.

“His voice is an important one in the party,” said Kate Bedingfield, who served as his communications director in the White House and is currently an adviser. “There’s no question about that. He’s in high demand.”

Steve Schale, a top Democratic strategist who helped lead the Draft Biden effort in 2015, took Biden’s appeal a step further.

“He’s the singular leader who can unite the different factions of the party,” Schale said. “He’s still a tremendous draw, and I’m confident he’ll use the goodwill he has to remain an active participant in helping elect more Democrats in 2018.”

Last weekend at an event in Hollywood, Fla., Biden couldn’t escape the looming questions about whether he’s running in 2020. But Biden kept the focus on 2018 and his support for incumbent Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonFlorida lawmakers blocked from entering facility holding migrant children Transportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards Hillicon Valley: Supreme Court takes up Apple case | Senate votes to block ZTE deal | Officials testify on Clinton probe report | Russia's threat to undersea cables | Trump tells Pentagon to create 'space force' | FCC begins T-Mobile, Sprint deal review MORE (D-Fla.).

While he avoided the question of a possible bid, he discussed what the future of the Democratic Party should look like. The party, he said, does not need to choose between progressive ideals and blue-collar values.

“We can’t get bogged down — and I hope I don’t offend anyone here — in this phony debate in the Democratic Party,” he said. “There is no need to choose. They are not inconsistent.”

There are reasons to think Biden will not run in 2020.

It’s unclear if the vice president could raise the money necessary for what could be a tough primary fight, and he’d face fundraising powerhouses if Warren and Sanders enter the race.

Biden flamed out while running for president in 1988 and 2008. And some Democrats caution that he’ll be 77 years old in 2020.

The former vice president wanted to run in 2016. But after his son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in May 2015 — and with the window of a presidential announcement closing later that fall — he decided not to run. He grew frustrated then, allies say, because he felt as though Clinton had boxed him out of the race.

Biden is at work on a book that will touch upon that tumultuous time in his life and what led to his decision not to run for president.

The tome has been consuming much of the former vice president’s time, sources say, and will continue to do so through much of the rest of the year.

Biden allies say it will be a key platform for a presidential run — if he decides to make the plunge.

They say it’s no secret that Biden thinks Clinton’s campaign failed to win over voters he views as his natural constituency.

Biden has privately grumbled to friends while giving his own autopsy of what Democrats failed to do in 2016: connect with the white working class.

These are the voters who abandoned Clinton when she became the first Democrat since 1988 to lose Pennsylvania and Michigan, and the first since 1984 to lose Wisconsin.

They are the voters whom Biden and his supporters think he could steal back from President Trump.

“We didn’t talk much to those people lately,” he said at the Florida event. “We have to let them know we understand their fears, their concerns, and that we have some real answers.”