We’ve been watching closely and speculating whether former Vice President Joe Biden will take what would conceivably be his last stab at higher office and launch a presidential campaign in 2020. His polling numbers in the early caucus state of Iowa are looking healthy, and he enjoys broad support among his party, but there still remains a fear among his advisers that his more moderate temperament and more centrist ideology simply won’t sell for the Democratic Party in 2020.
The Atlantic reports on what’s happening right now with Biden’s inner circle as they mull the possibility, and lay the groundwork, for a possible 2020 presidential campaign:
Top positions for a campaign have been sketched out. Donor outreach has accelerated, with Biden himself telling staff at some events to write down the names of people who say they’re eager to help. A list of potential “day-one endorsers” among elected officials has been prepared. Basic staff outreach is happening. Biden has even joked to people that he’s upped his daily workout to get in shape.
“I have been told that if it happens, I need to be ready to go with a moment’s notice,” said one person who’s been in conversations with Biden’s top aides.
Skepticism persists, fed by donors who are wondering why they haven’t heard anything, and operatives who others in the field assumed Biden would have locked down by now are still shopping around for other candidates.
Biden pulled the plug at the last minute in 2015, and some of those closest to him warn he still may this time.
Biden has said as much himself.
Running in 2015 would have meant running against the pre-ordained candidacy of Hillary Clinton, so it’s understandable that Biden would step aside and allow her to take the nomination unencumbered, save Bernie Sanders.
2020 is an entirely different animal in that Biden alone would be the biggest name in the primary, the highest ranking Democrat with the longest track record in campaigning, experience, and fundraising.
So, what’s the holdup? It’s pretty simple. Biden is worried that he will get swallowed by the progressive wing of the party:
Biden and his aides think Bernie Sanders, who is a year older, might help neutralize the issue of Biden’s age. Sanders is considered likely to join a progressive field that includes Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and possibly Sherrod Brown sometime soon. A Sanders candidacy would likely encourage Biden to run because he doesn’t agree with the Vermont senator’s policies and thinks they’re losing politics.
In a primary, Biden and his advisers believe, all those left-tilting candidates would divide support and leave him with a sizable number of more moderate voters.
“We’ve got a little bit of our own lane. We just need to go own it,” said a third person who’s been in touch with Biden’s top aides. “He’s well aware that this isn’t going to be easy, he’s going to have to fight for it, but I don’t think he’s viewing this thing through the lens of matching up against any one candidate.”
According to the story, Biden is waiting on Bernie Sanders to make an entrance, which, according to the strategy, would give the former Vice President the chance to ride solo in the center-left lane while the progressives fight it out and dilute the vote.
The question remains, however, whether that strategy would work or whether Biden would be relegated early on for not being “woke” enough to carry the Democratic Party in 2019.
Biden is not without baggage, and his folksy charms sometimes rub certain factions of the party the wrong way. However, the promise of a Biden presidency with the assistance of a progressive Vice President might be enough to placate Democrats eager to defeat Donald Trump.
In the meantime, Biden is making fundraising trips with party insiders and setting up the infrastructure needed to launch a campaign within days once the decision is made:
In January, he went to the New York offices of BlackRock, the major investment firm, for a meeting with Larry Fink, the CEO. They talked about the state of the world and the country, about what’s going on in the markets. Toward the end, Fink said to Biden, “I’m here to help,” according to people told about the conversation.
Biden took it as an offer to sign on with the campaign.
“I’m 70 percent there, but I’m not all the way there,” Biden told Fink.
That same 70 percent line has been circulating among Biden allies for weeks: This looks like it’s happening, but don’t write off the 30 percent chance that it doesn’t.
With his status as former Vice President and deep connections in the party, Biden can afford to wait and do things on his time table. No need to jump in early and begin taking incoming fire from fellow Democrats and President Trump every day.
Let the newcomers dip their toe in and settle into a polling trend of a few percentage points while Biden bides his time and enters the race in March or April with plenty of time to prep for the first Democratic primary debate in June.