Joe Biden says he's 'uniquely' positioned to run for president. His evidence?

Vice President Joe Biden has been all over talk shows this week, and he seems to have a good time swatting at the inevitable queries about 2016.

Larry Downing/Reuters
US Vice President Joseph Biden listens to President Barack Obama at a meeting with the Democratic Governors Association, in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, February 21, 2014.

Joe Biden says his experience as a senator and vice president “uniquely positions” him to run for president if he so desires.

In an appearance Tuesday on ABC’s “The View,” Mr. Biden pointed in particular to his experience in foreign policy and his engagement with world leaders as his value-added qualities. President Obama has loaded him with foreign assignments, Biden said, such as figuring out how to get the United States out of Iraq. Plus, before Mr. Obama tapped him as veep, Biden was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so he’s got lots of experience in this area.

Of course, potential 2016 rival Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary of State, a job that consists of running US affairs around the world. Fortunately, none of the women on “The View” pointed this out. It might have been awkward.

In the context of unique experience, Biden also pointed to his belief that the middle class “is the single focus ... we should be looking at” in domestic affairs.

Again, that’s different from you-know-who in what way, Joe? Last we heard, Mrs. Clinton was not pushing for lower taxes on the rich.

OK, we’re being a bit snarky here. Talking about possibly running for president in a manner that leaves open the possibility of not running, without losing credibility or sounding strained, isn’t easy. Biden’s decent at it. He’s been all over talk shows this week, and he seems to have a good time swatting at the inevitable queries about 2016.

For instance on “The View,” Biden proffered a small gift to retiring panelist Barbara Walters and promised that if she sticks around, he’ll reveal his future plans on her show. Then again, he said kind of the same thing during a Monday night appearance on Seth Meyer’s new “Late Night” gig.

Biden joked that he’d planned to make a “major announcement” in front of Mr. Meyers but that he’d decided against it because he didn’t want to steal the spotlight on Meyers’s big night.

“So I hope you’ll invite me back,” Biden teased Meyers.

Biden looked like he was having a pretty good time on both shows. And he said something pretty revealing about the nature of his current job. After Jenny McCarthy told him that her son had said the job of a VP was “to attend a lot of funerals,” Biden laughed.

Then he said, “A vice president has no inherent power. It’s all reflective power. It all depends on the relationship with the president of the United States.”

That’s true. And Biden seems to have maintained a fairly good relationship with Obama. The VP said they were ideologically compatible and personal friends.

Biden’s problem going forward is that “ideologically compatible with Obama” is not exactly a campaign slogan. Vice presidents who run for president face a tricky balance: They have to establish a separate identity without trashing their former boss.

Some – such as Al Gore – don’t seem to manage it.

The fact is that it’s rare for vice presidents to run for and win the presidency on their own. Fourteen former VPs have become president, but of those, nine assumed the office upon the death or resignation of the Oval Office occupant.

In the modern era, only George H.W. Bush has won election to immediately replace the man under whom he served. (Ronald Reagan, in Mr. Bush’s case.) The last veep to pull that off prior to Bush was Martin Van Buren, in 1836.

And here’s a bit of VP trivia: One vice president defeated the sitting president with whom he served to claim the nation’s top political job. Who was this ingrate?

It was Thomas Jefferson, who beat John Adams in the election of 1800. Back then, nobody expected VPs to be the president’s chief assistant. The vice president was the person who came in second in the presidential election.

Jefferson and Adams were of different parties, and as VP, Jefferson basically spent much of his time preparing for his presidential run and writing a guidebook on legislative procedure, according to the Senate Historical Office.

By the way, on the substance of running for president, Biden this week continued to say what he's been saying for months. He might run, he might not, and what Mrs. Clinton does won't factor in that decision. He'll decide in coming months.

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