Biden fuels 2020 speculation


Joe Biden has been out of office for four months, but the former vice president hasn’t left the public eye.

Instead, Biden has kept a robust schedule that fuels speculation about a 2020 presidential run.

Some Democrats looking to bounce back from 2016 defeats are still looking to Biden to reorient their messaging in a way that could win back the working-class voters who fled the party to vote for President Trump.

Biden, who passed on running for president last year after a lengthy period of indecision, has promised to remain involved in rebuilding the party.

{mosads}When it comes to a White House bid in 2020, though, he has sent mixed signals, noting that he currently has no plans to mount a campaign. And Biden’s age — he’ll be 78 by Inauguration Day in 2021 — would make him by far the oldest president ever.

Still, Biden’s busy recent schedule of events and appearances suggests he hasn’t entirely ruled out another bid.

Biden has attended a hedge fund conference in Las Vegas and a fundraiser for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). His jam-packed calendar also includes upcoming speeches at the Florida Democratic Party and at a few college commencements. Biden will also receive an award at the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Gala next month.

But the appearance that drew the loudest buzz was Biden’s speech last month at a state party dinner in New Hampshire — a critical early state in the presidential primary circuit. During his speech, Biden sought to tamp down the 2020 rumors.

“When I got asked to speak, I knew it was going to cause speculation,” Biden said to applause, only to add, “Guys, I’m not running.”

That wasn’t the first time Biden has shot down the possibility of a presidential bid. Right before he left office, Biden said he doesn’t intend to run.

“I have no intention of running for president, but I do have the intention to stay deeply involved in everything I’ve done my whole life,” Biden said on “The View” in January.

Still, his most recent reference to any lingering presidential ambitions showed that he still appears open to it and won’t rule anything out.

“I may very well do it,” Biden said about a run at the SALT hedge fund conference in Las Vegas on Friday. “At this point, no one in my family or I have made the judgment to run.”

As Biden’s schedule resembles the itinerary of someone looking to test the presidential waters, voters so far appear enthusiastic about a Biden comeback.

A survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released this month found Biden as the leading Democratic contender in a hypothetical matchup against Trump. The recent poll found Biden defeating Trump in a head-to-head race by 14 percentage points, 54 to 40 percent — a margin 1 point larger than Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who polled 13 points ahead of Trump.

Democratic strategists close to Biden, who has been affectionately nicknamed “Uncle Joe” by supporters for his avuncular demeanor and tendency to make gaffes, say it’s in his nature to stay active in politics, especially after holding elected office for more than four decades.

“I don’t have any idea what he’s going to do other than what he says publicly, which is he’s not inclined to do it at this point. I don’t think he knows what he’s going to do honestly,” said Steve Schale, a former campaign aide in Florida to former President Barack Obama who worked on the Draft Biden movement in 2016. He noted that he hasn’t spoken to Biden since Christmas.

“The idea that Joe Biden would continue to do what he’s done for 40 years … shouldn’t come to anybody’s surprise, nor do I think anybody should read into it that he’s definitely made a decision. He’s keeping his word that he was going to remain active in the public space and work on the issues he cares about.”

Biden has been a dominant force in national Democratic politics since he was first elected to the Senate in 1973 at just 29 years old. He’s run for president twice: in 1988, and then 20 years later, in 2008.

After serving two terms as Obama’s second in command, Biden opted out of running for president in 2016 after his eldest son, Beau, died from brain cancer. Biden will spend some of his post-White House time on a cancer research initiative in his home state at the University of Pennsylvania.

“This is who he is; this is what he’s done his whole life,” Schale said. “I think you’re going to see Joe Biden remain a pretty prominent fixture in American politics.”

During the 2016 general election, Biden was active on the campaign trail for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, giving emotional speeches in many of the Rust Belt states that she ultimately lost.

Now that the dust has started to settle since the election, Biden has been critical of both Clinton and Democrats’ messaging and conceded that he regretted not running last year.

At an event in late March, he lamented that Democrats neglected to reach out to the middle class and focus on pocketbook issues that impact all Americans. Many voters in the Midwest and Rust Belt gravitated to Trump, with a number of those states going red for the first time in decades.

“I never thought [Clinton] was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” Biden said at the Friday conference in Las Vegas, though he added, “Hillary would have been a really good president.”

Even with the constant 2020 speculation buzzing around him, Biden is making good on his promise to help Democrats get elected to public office at all levels of government.

Earlier this year, Biden campaigned in a state Senate race in Delaware, where he served as a U.S. senator. The Democratic candidate won, preserving the party’s control of the chamber. Now, Biden plans to stump with a Democratic candidate in New Jersey’s governor’s race, which will be held in November.

As the party searches for its next leader, many Democrats believe they must look beyond older politicians like Biden, Clinton and Obama and at the new generation of politicians, party leaders and activists.

Biden was notably missing from a recent 2020 cattle call in Washington, D.C., when the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, hosted a conference earlier this week that featured a lineup of potential 2020 contenders. The list included Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.).

Sanders, who also didn’t attend CAP’s conference, also won’t rule out another run in 2020. Since running in a surprisingly close 2016 primary with Clinton, the Vermont senator has worked closely with the Democratic National Committee to unite the Sanders and Clinton factions of the Democratic Party.

Now, some Democrats see Biden’s role in national politics becoming more about being an elder statesman who promotes the next generation of Democratic leaders. By the time 2020 rolls around, some strategists believe that voters will want a fresh face to pick up the party’s mantle and lead the resistance to Trump’s administration.

“He has a very valuable role to play, but I don’t think he’s in the same league with the Sanders and Warrens of the world,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “They have bigger microphones and platforms to speak from.

“I think Democrats are going to want a new face, somebody fresh.”

Tags Amy Klobuchar Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Kirsten Gillibrand
See all Hill.TV See all Video