“He’s thinking about it,” was the White House response following multiple reports that Vice President Joe Biden is considering a presidential run in 2016. PPD has confirmed that early reports from FOX News claiming Biden has been testing the primary waters for weeks.
“Vice President Biden is going to have to make up his own mind,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday morning. “He’s thinking about it.”
Biden had initially decided against running for president in 2016, but two factors have reportedly begun to change his mind. First, Hillary Clinton continues to face sagging poll numbers, ongoing questions about her use of a private email server and an upcoming hearing of her handling of the 2012 Benghazi attack during her tenure as secretary of state. Clinton may be holding on in some polls to a nationwide lead over her lesser-known potential GOP rivals, but she has now begun to trail at least Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in key battleground states. According to the PPD average of polls, Hillary now has a favorability rating of only 39 percent in the eight states most likely to decide the outcome of the presidential race in Election 2016.
Second, Beltway pundits had thought the death of Biden’s son in May, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, would further discourage the vice president. However, the Beau Biden, as well as his brother, Hunter Biden, had previously urged their father to jump into the 2016 presidential race. PPD is not the only outlet to report on the development.
An adviser close to Biden, who is familiar with the vice president’s exploration process, told the Boston Herald that Biden will “more likely than not” jump into the 2016 race. Democrats in Massachusetts and early voting states welcomed the news and prospect of a spirited Democratic primary. “We have staff on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire, and we are bringing more people on in South Carolina,” Will Pierce of “Draft Biden 2016” told the Herald. Pierce also said he expects Biden to decide by September.
“What is happening with the emails and all the other issues around Hillary’s campaign has not been helpful to her,” said former Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Phil Johnston. “If anyone is in the position to beat her for the nomination, I would say it’s Joe.”
The president’s press secretary rattled off pre-determined talking points that appeared to suggest the White House was supportive of the vice president’s run. President Obama has been walking and talking on a fine line respecting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, particularly since revelations she broke the president’s directives on keeping government records and communications.
“President Obama, then-Sen. Obama, chose Vice President Biden, then-Sen. Biden, as his running mate and the president has described that as the smartest political decision he has ever made,” Earnest said. “He chose somebody who has a long career of fighting for the middle class. He chose somebody who, when he was in the Senate, established relationships around the globe that have been useful in advancing the interests of the United States.”
“The fact is Vice President Biden has used both those sets of skills to advance our interests,” Earnest added. “And that’s why he has been an excellent vice president. He’ll have to make up his own mind about whether he wants to run for the presidency.”
When asked if the president would support his vice president if he decided to challenge Hillary, who has most recently come under scrutiny by two inspector generals for sending classified email over her private server, Earnest gave what was perhaps most the clear diplomatic answer as press secretary he has ever given.
“The president believes that Democratic voters ultimately need to decide, but he believes a spirited contest would be in the best interests of our party and our country,” he said. “Vice President Joe Biden has certainly earned the right to make that decision on his own schedule.”