Vice President BidenJoe BidenMadame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures US raises concerns about Russian troop movements to Belarus Putin tests a model for invading Ukraine, outwitting Biden's diplomats MORE's recent statement that he intends to announce his plans about running for president "at the end of the spring or early summer" is the latest indication that he's still contemplating a run for the nation's top job.
As noted in The Hill, however, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket A year into his presidency, Biden is polling at an all-time low MORE remains "far and away the Democratic presidential frontrunner, leading her rivals by more than 50 percentage points." Clinton registered the support of 65 percent of Democrats versus Biden's 9 percent (and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren dodges on whether Sinema, Manchin should be challenged in primaries Former aide says she felt 'abandoned' by Democrats who advanced Garcetti nomination as ambassador to India The Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness MORE's 10 percent).
Even if a presidential run isn't really a promising option for Biden, he should have many other opportunities come 2017. He could take former Vice President Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Biden unleashes on Trump and GOP A presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day VP dilemma: The establishment or the base? MORE's path of success in private industry and advocacy for causes, or assume former Vice President Dick CheneyDick CheneySen. Ron Johnson: Straight from the horse's mouth Budowsky: When Dr. King, Rep. Cheney came to Washington Hutchinson says 'big lie' supporters 'not demonstrating leadership' MORE's role role as partisan gadfly. Or he might pursue options on corporate boards, in academia or in the media and publishing.
Still, if Biden wishes to continue to serve in public office, there are at least four major political paths forward for him in 2016:
Governor: At first glance, Biden's most obvious opportunity for elected executive office is in his own home state of Delaware. The incumbent Democratic governor is term-limited and cannot run again in 2016. Over in California, 76-year-old Jerry Brown is demonstrating, in his second stint as governor, that political veterans can bring innovative ideas and tackle new challenges.
However, tiny Delaware offers a much smaller stage than the Golden State, perhaps too small for a former vice president. More importantly, Delaware already has a potential Gov. Biden in its near future: Beau Biden, the state's attorney general and the vice president's son, who has indicated his intention to run for governor in 2016. So while Joe Biden will likely be on the campaign trail in Delaware, it won't be as a candidate.
But next door in Pennsylvania, Republican Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyMeet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Black women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal MORE will be up for election in 2016. Biden is a native son of Scranton, Pa. and lived much of his life in Wilmington, Del., which is a stone's throw from Pennsylvania and more or less part of greater Philadelphia. He'd thus be largely immune to charges of carpetbagging, and could help consolidate the Democrats' bid to retake the Senate in 2016.
Cabinet official: In the run-up to the 2012 election, one commonly cited scenario was that Biden and Clinton might switch positions. As long-time chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as a former vice president, Biden would make a formidable secretary of state. However, President Obama had unique reasons for installing a "rival" in the powerful position of secretary of state. Having served in that role herself, Clinton might be all the more likely to want to maintain greater control over that portfolio. That said, Biden could be a plausible candidate for many other Cabinet-level jobs, including top positions such as attorney general or secretary of Defense.
It might be noted that the only modern example of a former vice president joining the Cabinet, Henry Wallace as secretary of Commerce in the 1940s, did not end well — he clashed with, and ultimately ran against, his boss, President Truman. But Biden and Clinton are said to have excellent personal and professional rapport.
Ambassador: Representing the U.S. to a major foreign power is yet another route forward for a former vice president. The most obvious choice would be Japan, where the government highly prizes an ambassador with name recognition and well-established access to the Oval Office. Caroline Kennedy is now in that role; during the 1990s, it was filled by former Vice President Walter Mondale.
At a time of heightening international tensions in East Asia and beyond, a veteran of Biden's stature could be a huge asset in Japan, but also in another major power such as China or Russia. A former vice president can also be a potent special envoy, navigating difficult shoals such as, for instance, reestablishing diplomatic relations with Iran.
Joe Biden has been a Democratic Party stalwart, a national leader and a prominent statesman since the 1970s. Still, not every Oscar nominee can win the Best Actor award, nor can even the most talented athlete always become the MVP. The presidential hopes of the Democratic Party are focused elsewhere for 2016. But that doesn't mean Biden couldn't still have an important role to play on the team.
Smith is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute; an adjunct assistant professor of political science at Columbia University and New York University; and author of Importing Democracy: Ideas from Around the World to Reform and Revitalize American Politics and Government.