But even as informed speculation leads to people guessing about where the campaign headquarters would be or dates they think might work for an announcement, big questions remain.
Among the biggest: how would he answer for his role in the Anita Hill hearings, for backing the 1994 Crime Bill with harsh sentencing guidelines, and for supporting corporate-tilting financial legislation during his decades representing Delaware in the Senate. Still, Biden and his team look at the midterm results and think they’re proof that this may be more of a moment for him than people realize: more people won elections in November talking about protecting Obamacare, for example, than calling for Medicare for All.
Then there’s the Obama endorsement question. The two remain friends, and speak on the phone. Even as the former president counseled other Democrats looking at presidential runs, he has generally avoided the topic of 2020 with Biden, and Biden hasn’t brought it up.
But if Biden runs, he’d be running in part on the Obama-Biden record, which would raise the question of an endorsement. If Obama did endorse or even just strategically praised his former VP, he’d be putting his thumb on the scale in a way that backfired in 2016 when he did it for Clinton. Obama advisers stress that the former president thinks highly of Biden. But they deflected the question of whether this admiration would lead to an endorsement by saying they didn’t want to get ahead of the former vice president’s decision-making process.
Biden, meanwhile, is not assuming he’d get an endorsement, especially with Obama publicly and privately stressing that he does not feel like he should be the one deciding the future direction of the party.
Biden’s team has also been weighing how, if he runs, he’d position himself within the field: as a statesman and party elder, but eager to avoid any of the inevitability that happened with Clinton. He would be attempting to run a first-among-equals campaign, which Biden allies think might be helped by all those in the Democratic chattering class who doubt he could pull it off in a changed party and political environment.
The people who believe in a Biden candidacy think it begins with his working and middle class white base. He also has African-American support he earned from being part of Obama’s team, hero status within the LGBT community for jumping out front in support of gay marriage, and a connection to many young people nostalgic for the presidency they grew up with.
For now, even those in the inner circle wait, while the core fans hope. An email list of about 60-diehards that was active during the days of the 2015 Draft Biden effort recently lit up again, with people checking in to say that they’re still around and ready to go. In Iowa, there’s even an old staffer from his 2008 campaign who’s been using Facebook to reach out to supporters on his own and collecting résumés, just in case.
“I don’t want to make the mistake of getting hopes up until the vice president makes a statement. In 2015, Biden supporters here waited and waited and ultimately, he didn’t run,” said Marty Parrish, who was Biden’s campaign IT coordinator in Des Moines. “I’m not in the vice president’s inner circle by any means, but if and when he makes an announcement, I would expect someone will reach out to me.”
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