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

When Joe BidenJoe BidenPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Booker takes swipe at Biden criminal justice reform plan Panel: Has Joe Biden been wrong on everything for 40 years? 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 HarrisPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Biden announces plan to counteract mass incarceration MORE (Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker takes swipe at Biden criminal justice reform plan Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Biden announces plan to counteract mass incarceration MORE (N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission MORE (Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission MORE (I-Vt.) — who have forged their own relationships in the upper chamber.

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“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 HeinrichHillicon Valley: Harris spikes in Google searches after debate clash with Biden | Second US city blocks facial recognition | Apple said to be moving Mac Pro production from US to China | Bipartisan Senate bill takes aim at 'deepfake' videos Senators unveil bipartisan bill to target 'deepfake' video threat Senate Democrats wish talk on reparations would go away 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 CarperOvernight Energy: Senators push back on EPA's new FOIA rule | Agency digs in on rule change | Watchdog expands ethics probe of former EPA air chief Watchdog probing more ethics investigations into EPA's former air chief: report Fighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them MORE and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip MORE of Delaware, plus Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinOvernight Energy: Senators push back on EPA's new FOIA rule | Agency digs in on rule change | Watchdog expands ethics probe of former EPA air chief Bipartisan senators fight 'political considerations' in EPA's new FOIA rule Top Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties 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 Clinton5 things to know about Boris Johnson Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike MORE in 2008 when she was the front-runner against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaConservative former NFL player says Trump met with him to discuss 'black America' Using the VA Mission Act to justify raising federal spending levels is bad for veterans and taxpayers Trump struggles to win over voters reaping economic boom 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 McCaskillTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Feds allow campaigns to accept discounted cybersecurity services GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (Mo.), who chose to support Obama instead.

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

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“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 MurphyDemocrats look to capitalize on turmoil inside NRA The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin 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 CaseyDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Democrats grill USDA official on relocation plans that gut research staff Trump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions 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) TesterPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives 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 CummingsHouse Oversight schedules Thursday vote to hold Kellyanne Conway in contempt Trump tweets, rally chant dominate Sunday shows as president continues attacks Sunday shows - Fallout over Trump tweets 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 ClayHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Pressley: Democrats don't need 'any more black faces that don't want to be a black voice' 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 Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota 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 FrankelLawmakers concede they might have to pass a dreaded 'CR' Hillicon Valley: Trump officials to investigate French tax on tech giants | Fed chair raises concerns about Facebook's crypto project | FCC blocks part of San Francisco law on broadband competition | House members warn of disinformation 'battle' Lawmakers, experts see combating Russian disinformation as a 'battle' 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 Elizabeth GillibrandDemocrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana Gillibrand says she doesn't regret calling for Franken to resign MORE, [Minnesota Sen.] Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Equifax breach settlement sparks criticism The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Mueller ahead of testimony MORE, Elizabeth Warren — I would support any of them. Tulsi’s running too,” she said, referring to Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardPolitician targeted by Puerto Rican governor responds: 'This is an attack on all women' Puerto Ricans block major highway in protest of governor New CBS poll shows Biden with 7-point lead in New Hampshire 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.”