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Joe Biden says no reason he shouldn't run in 2016. Really? (+video)

Joe Biden set mid-2015 as a decision point for announcing his presidential plans. Amid all the reasons Biden might find for not pursuing a third run for the White House, one stands out: Hillary.

By Staff writer / February 7, 2014


Joe Biden on Friday said “there’s no obvious reason” he shouldn’t run for president in 2016.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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In an interview on CNN’s “New Day” program, the incumbent vice president said he’d decide on a candidacy by midsummer 2015.

“The decision to run or not run is going to be determined by me as to whether I am the best-qualified person to focus on the two things I’ve spent my whole life on – giving ordinary people a fighting chance to make it and a sound foreign policy that’s based on rational interests of the United States,” Mr. Biden told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.

This is pretty much in line with the way Biden has been talking about 2016 for some time. But it’s given lots of pundits an opportunity to play the savvy cynic and provide those no-go reasons Biden can’t imagine. Truth be told, that’s not hard to do.

He's the ancien régime. As VP, Biden is a member of the existing administration (duh). That means in both primaries and the general election, foes would hold him responsible for the mess-ups of the White House. Voters often want to move on after eight years of the same team – in the modern era, only one veep, George H.W. Bush, has won election to replace the man under whom he served.

He's not beloved. As Philip Bump points out on The Wire, Biden’s favorability rating is not great. According to the Huffpost Pollster average of major surveys, 40 percent of Americans approve of his job performance, and 48 disapprove.

“That’s hardly set in stone, of course, but the trend is bad; he’s consistently grown less popular since the second inauguration,” writes Mr. Bump.

He's Joe Biden. Throughout his lengthy Washington career, Biden has remained the same person – someone who says what he thinks, polls be darned. Often, this saying goes on, and on, and on.

Stuff just pops out. In a speech on Thursday, for instance, he described New York’s LaGuardia Airport as reminiscent of a “third world country." Earlier in the week, he gushed about GM’s new Corvette in a manner entirely in character with The Onion's satirical Joe Biden, who waxes his muscle cars in the White House driveway.

This can appeal to many constituencies. As a senator, Biden was beloved in Delaware. He remains a favorite of unions and working-class Democrats. But he has run for president twice before, in 1988 and 2008, and struggled both times. In 2008, he never broke past single digits in the polls.

In baseball, past performance is the best predictor of future statistics. That’s not a bad rule for politics, as well.

That said, we’re not sure that Biden is chomping at the hat to throw his bit into the arena, to mix a few metaphors. His words Friday struck us as lukewarm.

While he said there is no obvious reason he shouldn’t run, he prefaced that by saying there may be reasons he doesn’t. Translation: “If I don’t run, it’s not because I’m scared of Hillary Clinton. I pinky swear it.”

The issues he mentions as his own, economic populism and a “rational” foreign policy, probably put him to the left of Hillary Clinton in a Democratic primary field. That’s a niche that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley hints at occupying, too. Neither man has a choice, really, given the overwhelming shadow Mrs. Clinton casts over the race.

Right now, the presidential race is in the midst of the so-called “invisible primary," in which fundraisers, donors, consultants, and other elite party members make up their minds about whom to support. We agree with NBC’s “First Read” – what Biden is telling this crowd is that he wants them to keep him in mind as a contingency.

“Bottom line: Joe Biden isn’t going to run for president if Hillary does. But if she doesn’t, he probably will. And so while Republicans are looking for a 2016 front-runner, the Democrats have two of them – Hillary and Biden. Yet only one of them will be running for president,” write NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro.

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