Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate

When Joe BidenJoe BidenGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Trump says Giuliani is still his lawyer Sondland to tell Congress 'no quid pro quo' from Trump: report MORE enters the presidential race next month, it’s not a given that the former vice president will have a ton of support from his old Senate colleagues.

Biden served in the Senate for 36 years, but his time only overlaps with 18 Democrats who are still in the upper chamber. Nearly 30 Democrats, most a generation younger than Biden, have never served a day with the former chairman of the Judiciary and Foreign Relations panels.

He’ll also be squaring off against a half dozen current senators — including Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKlobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren Kamala Harris to Trump Jr.: 'You wouldn't know a joke if one raised you' O'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada MORE (Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerO'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter The Hill's Campaign Report: Impeachment fight to take center stage at Dem debate MORE (N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders on difference with Warren: she's a capitalist 'I'm not' Rubio hits Warren's 'crude' and 'vulgar' response to opposition to same-sex marriage Klobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren MORE (Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders on difference with Warren: she's a capitalist 'I'm not' Sunday Show Preview: Trump's allies and administration defend decision on Syria Klobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren MORE (I-Vt.) — who have forged their own relationships in the upper chamber.


“It’s a different Senate today. The challenge for him will be there are so many new senators and where that center of gravity lands, I think it’s too early to tell,” said Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Green groups line up behind Markey ahead of looming Kennedy fight Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group MORE (D-N.M.), who arrived in the Senate in 2013, four years after Biden had left to become vice president.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” said Heinrich, who is 47. “My bias is that we have this new, incredible generation of leadership and that in 2020, my hope is that the race will reflect that and I would like to see the nominee reflect that.”

To date, Biden has secured endorsements from three Democratic senators: Biden’s two home-state senators, Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperInstead of raising the gas tax, stop wasting money on frivolous projects To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists MORE and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMeet the dog and 'sea turtle' who launched campaigns for office Senators demand briefing on Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria 2020 Democrats push for gun control action at forum MORE of Delaware, plus Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSchiff should consider using RICO framework to organize impeachment We need answers to questions mainstream media won't ask about Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Syria fallout MORE (Calif.), who served with Biden on the Judiciary Committee when he was chairman. Freshman Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) also has been publicly encouraging Biden to run.

All four senators have lavished praise on the former vice president even though he still hasn’t officially entered the race. In January, Feinstein went as far as saying: “My candidate would be Joe Biden.”

But many others on Capitol Hill are not rushing to endorse Biden, who could face the same problems that plagued then-New York Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRonan Farrow exposes how the media protect the powerful Kamala Harris to Trump Jr.: 'You wouldn't know a joke if one raised you' Comey says he has a 'fantasy' about deleting his Twitter account after end of Trump term MORE in 2008 when she was the front-runner against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhy calls for impeachment have become commonplace Meet Trump's most trusted pollsters Reducing NSC staff places Trump on right side of history MORE.

Back then, Clinton was taken aback when her Senate colleagues — many of whom she had known for years — turned their backs on her and supported Obama, at the time a senator from Illinois. The toughest blow for Clinton may have been when the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.) endorsed Obama, but she felt betrayed by other senators like Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillIranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest MORE (Mo.), who chose to support Obama instead.

The 76-year-old Biden could be put in a similar situation.


“There may be quite a few senators who vote with their hearts,” said one longtime Senate aide, adding that it will be an “uphill climb” for Biden.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he and Biden are “friends” but that he has not heard from the vice president in awhile.

“You know what, I don’t know,” Blumenthal said when asked if he plans to endorse anyone.

The other senator from Connecticut, Democrat Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Administration to give 'top secret' briefing on Syria amid pushback Senators call for Trump administration to testify on Syria MORE, campaigned with Biden in Hartford last fall and worked with him on gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012. But with so many current Senate colleagues running, Murphy said he’ll probably steer clear of an endorsement.  

“I have great admiration for him. I think everybody who joins the field makes it better and stronger,” Murphy said of Biden. “He brings a national security background that I think will challenge the rest of the field to step up their game.

But he added: “I have lots of friends running, so I would be foolish to wade in. It’s a no-brainer for me.”

Biden has been in touch with members of the Senate.

Murphy said he recently spoke with Biden on some policy matters but did not discuss the presidential race. Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyHere are the Senate Democrats backing a Trump impeachment inquiry over Ukraine call Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), who is close to Biden and represents the state where he was born, has been in contact with him in recent weeks. And Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterRed-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Senate Democrats hesitant to go all-in on impeachment probe MORE (D-Mont.), who briefly overlapped with Biden in the Senate, said he called his former colleague two weeks ago to catch up on his likely White House bid and other issues.

Asked if he was encouraging Biden to run, Tester replied: “I certainly would not discourage him. Joe’s a good friend.”

The change in the Senate “has been generational,” Tester said, “but he still has a lot of old friends.”

Across the Capitol in the House, support for Biden has been hit or miss. Behind the scenes, he’s been reaching out to a select group of lawmakers and asking for their endorsements.

Biden’s longtime adviser Steve Richetti also has been making calls to shore up support. Ricchetti even invited Rep. Don Beyer, the former Virginia lieutenant governor and a key House fundraiser, over to his home for dinner recently, though Beyer described the evening as two old friends catching up rather than a Biden pitch for president.

But the Biden calls and invites aren’t going out to everyone.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCracks emerge in White House strategy as witness testifies Overnight Defense: Pentagon insists US hasn't abandoned Kurds | Trump expands sanctions authority against Turkey | Ex-Ukraine ambassador says Trump pushed for her ouster On The Money: Trump announces limited trade deal with China | Appeals court rules against Trump over financial records | Trump expands authority to sanction Turkey MORE (D-Md.) has known Biden for decades but said he hasn’t spoken to him “in years.” Another veteran Democrat, Rep. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Association of Manufacturers - Trump defends Ukraine motives while attacking Biden Democrats rally behind incumbents as Lipinski takes liberal fire House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment MORE (Mo.), hasn’t heard directly from Biden either, though he’s been in touch with two other 2020 hopefuls, Harris and Booker, his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

“They serve in the Congress with me and in the CBC, so I am considering both of them,” Clay told The Hill. “They both seem to be doing pretty well out there on the campaign trail as far as attracting crowds, speaking to the issues that Americans care about.”

One of Biden’s strongest arguments in a Democratic primary is the idea that he can beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Louisiana's Democratic governor forced into runoff Lawmakers focus their ire on NBA, not China MORE in states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania that turned away from Democrats in 2016.

It’s not hard to imagine Biden being a favored candidate among House lawmakers representing swing districts that Trump won in the last presidential election.

At the same time, there’s reason for House liberals to think twice about backing Biden, who supported the Iraq War and whose chairmanship of the Anita Hill hearings during Justice Clarence Thomas's confirmation process has come under new scrutiny.

Rep. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelOvernight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Impeachment inquiry overshadows Trump at UN | Veterans push VA to follow through on reforms | Iranian leader open to changes in nuke deal Pelosi to launch formal Trump impeachment inquiry Democrats call on House committees to probe Epstein's 2008 'sweetheart deal,' suicide MORE (D-Fla.), co-chair of the bipartisan Women’s Caucus, said she’ll be backing a woman in 2020, though she hasn’t decided which one.

“In my heart … we have so many good women running for president, I would like to see one of them make it,” Frankel told The Hill.

“Kamala Harris, Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a 'triumph of substance over the theatre' Three 2020 candidates have missed about half of Senate votes MORE, [Minnesota Sen.] Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren O'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter MORE, Elizabeth Warren — I would support any of them. Tulsi’s running too,” she said, referring to Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard slams New York Times profile of her Krystal Ball defends praise of Yang: I am not 'a Russian plant' Gabbard backs Sanders proposal to ban advertisements during primary debates MORE (D-Hawaii). 

Some Biden allies said they don’t put too much stock in the congressional endorsement game. Clinton had overwhelming support among her former Senate colleagues in 2016, yet Sanders mounted a stronger-than-expected challenge in the primary that year, Carper recalled.

And Hill surrogates aren’t always on message. A close Biden friend for four decades, Carper played a practical joke on a reporter from The Hill who asked whether Biden was close to jumping in.

“I heard this morning that he’s getting cold feet and that his wife has had second thoughts. And you know what they say in the Biden household: Happy wife, happy life,” Carper said with a serious expression. “I expect him to announce that he’s not going to run.”

“Are you joking?” the reporter replied.

A wide smile appeared on Carper’s face: “It’s not a joke; it’s an outright lie.”

The senior senator from Delaware said he knows the entire gaggle of senators running for president very well, adding that there are no bad feelings given his early Biden endorsement.

“In that gathering,” Carper said, “there are a lot of terrific potential vice presidential candidates.”