Did Joe Biden just endorse Bernie Sanders?

The vice president praised the Vermont senator for his 'authentic' voice on issues of income inequality.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/File
Vice President Joe Biden smiles after speaking at an event in Washington. Mr. Biden described Bernie Sanders on Monday, as more authentic on economic inequality than Hillary Clinton and defended Sanders' record on gun control during an interview with CNN.

President Obama may be resisting calls to endorse a Democratic presidential candidate, but his vice president came awfully close to endorsing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday night.

In an interview with CNN, Vice President Joe Biden praised Senator Sanders for his “authentic” voice on income inequality issues, and said that while the Democratic Party has great candidates for the race, Sanders' stance on these issues has made an impression on the public.

“Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real, and he has credibility on it," Mr. Biden said. "And that is the absolute enormous concentration of wealth in a small group of people with the new class now being able to be shown being left out.” 

He added that Hillary Clinton is relatively new to these issues. "Hillary's focus has been other things up to now, and that's been Bernie's — no one questions Bernie's authenticity on those issues," Biden said. Income inequality “has been Bernie's mantra from the time he's gotten involved, even when income inequality wasn't as serious as it is today, it was his drumbeat.”

On Tuesday on an interview with NBC's Today show, Biden clarified that he was not criticizing Hillary Clinton. “What I meant was, for the last five years, she's been engaged in foreign policy.”

Biden told CNN's Gloria Borger that he was not surprised by how closely Sanders and the once-presumed frontrunner Hillary Clinton rank in early polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The interview comes after Mr. Obama addressed the nation on the issue of gun control last week and said that he wouldn't endorse or campaign for any candidate who opposes what he described as common sense gun control, an issue that has been a less prominent focus of the Sanders campaign.

“What Bernie Sanders has to do is say that the Second Amendment says – which he has, of late – the Second Amendment says you can limit who can own a gun, that people who are criminals shouldn't have guns. People who are schizophrenic and have mental illnesses shouldn't own guns," Biden said. "And he has said that."

The vice president suggested that Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night will include renewed calls for presidential candidates to take up gun control as a major campaign issue.

This report includes material from Reuters.

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