Biden Eyeing 2016 Bid?

Joe Biden

Photo courtesy of White House

Biden Eyeing 2016 Bid?
| published January 22, 2015 |

By R. Alan Clanton
Thursday Review editor

Elizabeth Warren may be arguably the most powerful woman in the United States Senate, though there is hardly any debate at all that she is now the standard-bearer for the resurgent progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Left-liberals more often than not look to Warren for direction on the flashpoint issues, most especially corporate profits, Wall Street, jobs and wages, equality of opportunity, economic justice. And for those not sure about Warren’s bona fides and clout, just look at this example: Warren may have single-handedly shot down President Obama’s most recent appointee to a top Treasury Department post when she issued stern invectives against Obama’s selection of Antonio Weiss to fill a vacancy.

Weiss, the chief of global investment banking at the Wall Street firm Lazard, had been carefully angling for just such an appointment for years, but he been widely seen as in the final stages of grooming for the moment when he was picked by Obama. Better for Weiss: he has been a large donor and campaign finance bundler for Obama. From the White House perspective, what was not to like about him.

But for Warren, the professorial progressive who defeated the popular Republican Scott Brown in a bitterly-fought Massachusetts election in 2012, well, in her own words, “enough is enough.” Warren said it was time to end placing Wall Street bankers into the top government jobs—anywhere. Warren’s opposition to Weiss rallied Democrats. Weiss didn’t wait for the messy confirmation fight in the Senate, nor did he wait for the call from the President. He spared Obama the trouble and dumped himself overboard.

The victory for Warren was widely interpreted as just one more step in a process which might lead her toward a Presidential campaign in 2016—a chance, many Democrats had quietly hoped, for the party to produce someone, anyone, to challenge the de facto ascendancy of Hillary Clinton. Websites had already sprung up supporting Warren’s bid for 2016, selling buttons, bumper-stickers, and signs. Even as more Republicans enter the already-crowded and fractious fray—the GOP field now contains the names of at least a dozen contenders, none official as of this writing—Democrats were openly bemoaning the loss of choice for 2016. Would there be anyone able to challenge Clinton? Would the country face Clinton versus Bush, Part Two? Warren seemed the likely foil to what was starting to look like the greatest rematch since Adlai Stevenson challenged Ike the second time in 1956.

But Warren says no, an emphatic no, to any presidential aspirations in the already hot run-up toward 2016. She will not be a candidate.

Has this been a factor over the last few days of January as Vice-President Joe Biden continues to drop the “C” bombs? C as in “considering,” C as in “conversations and consultations,” C as in candidate. C as in “yes, there is a chance.”

On Wednesday, Biden went about as far as anyone on the Democratic side has gone, telling ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that the topic of a 2016 run is central to his thinking.

“But I haven’t made up my mind about that,” Biden said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then. There’s plenty of time.” When Stephanopoulos reminded Biden of Hillary Clinton, who is the favorite among Democrats in the same way that Ronald Reagan once rallied the GOP faithful, Biden seemed to shrug off any fear or concern.

“I think this is wide open on both sides,” Biden said with a broad smile. Biden also said he was under no pressure to make a formal decision until early summer.

For many observers, that statement was as close to an emphatic “yes” as any utterance among the Democrats so far. Even Hillary remains coy on the subject, though hardly anyone among the American population truly believes she will not run in 2016.

But Biden has been polling poorly in both the informal and the scientific surveys in Iowa and New Hampshire. And one recent national poll placed Biden as the preference of only about 2% of all Democrats. But those who know Biden say he is generally unconcerned about polling at this stage. And though he frequently lavishes praise upon presumed rival Hillary Clinton, he—like many Democrats—may be looking at a race in which the improbable happens: Clinton chooses not to run.

Clinton experienced some damage to her brand name in the 2014 midterm elections when Republicans swept to their biggest House and Senate victory in more than 70 years. With the President’s approval rating at an all-time low in November, many Democrats instead hitched their wagon to the Clinton bandwagon. But all those Democratic losses caused blowback for the Clinton franchise, though there are plenty of Democratic strategists, as well as GOP analysts, who say she will have plenty of time for a full recovery.

In the meantime, with Warren decidedly out of the pool of contenders (Warren has not ruled out a possible run in 2020), Biden may sense that he has an opportunity to reboot the talk of his candidacy. Though his poll numbers are low, in a race without Clinton—however unlikely that scenario is—Biden may become the instant standard bearer for Democrats.

On the GOP side, a multitude of major candidates are jockeying for position, though none have made it official. Both Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are elbowing for the large donors, and other presumed candidates—such as New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, and Florida’s Marco Rubio are weighing their options.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Romney Considering 2016 Bid?; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; January 11, 2015.

Jeb Bush PAC: Another Sign of Candidacy?; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; January 6, 2015.