Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at the American Civil War Center at the Historic Tredegar Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
With her name recognition, her access to big donors, her experience in politics, her connections in the Democratic Party, and, of course, her star power and that of her husband’s, Hillary Clinton is clearly a shoe-in to seize the Democratic party’s presidential nomination.
That’s roughly how the argument went at this point in 2008. And it shows you shouldn’t confuse confident predictions about politics with accurate ones this far out.
Still, word that Vice President Joe Biden will give the keynote speech next month at an Iowa event seen as a proving ground for future presidential candidates has generated predictable headlines. Will he run? Will she? Will either? Will he if she does?
It’s a little odd to think of a sitting two-term vice president as not being the front-runner to succeed his boss. There’s a recent precedent, though: Vice President Dick Cheney. Biden doesn’t have the health problems Cheney had – but polls comparing how he would do against Republican rivals to how Clinton would do show he’d have a much rougher time of it.
“I can die a happy man never having been president of the United States of America,” Biden said in a mid-July GQ magazine profile. “But it doesn’t mean I won’t run.”
That piece called Biden “a Hillary Clinton away from the White House” (assuming away the Republican field), reflecting the loose inside-the-Beltway consensus that he won’t run if she does.
“The judgment I’ll make is, first of all, am I still as full of as much energy as I have now — do I feel this?” he said. “Number two, do I think I’m the best person in the position to move the ball? And, you know, we’ll see where the hell I am.”
Where the hell he’ll be on Sept. 15th is at an annual steak-fry organized by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in Indianola. Who’s paying for what is obviously a political trip, not an official one?
“In this case, applicable costs for the Vice President’s travel are being covered by Senator Harkin’s ‘To Organize a Majority PAC,'" a Biden aide told Yahoo News.
Too bad, a “LiterallyPAC” would have been a killer clue as to Biden’s 2016 goals.
PACs have also sprung up around the notion of a Hillary run, both for and against. But in both cases, the principals haven’t tipped their hand this way.
Lately, Hillary has found something of a theme to carry her public remarks, the Washington Post reports.
The former secretary of state visited President Barack Obama for lunch in late July, followed by a breakfast with Biden the next day. Reporters got the menus but little else from a White House disinclined to fuel speculation about Obama’s own preference when it comes to his successor.
Biden’s had a workaday approach to scoring headlines – he frequently gets them for his, ahhh, verbal insouciance, but that coverage belies how hard he’s worked for Obama.
He oversaw implementation of the Administration’s $800 billion “stimulus” package (official name: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and defended it better in public than nearly anyone (including his boss). He played critical roles in negotiating eleventh-hour deals with Congressional Republicans, notably in the Summer 2011 battle over the debt ceiling.
He was the point man negotiating U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and has been the point man in contact with the Iraqi government since. He took the lead role in the Administration’s (thus-far failed) efforts to battle gun violence in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., massacre. And he served throughout the 2012 campaign as de facto ambassador to the white working-class voters that Obama often struggled to reach.
The Republican National Committee has recently trained most of its fire on Clinton, notably slamming plans by CNN and NBC to air a documentary and a miniseries, respectively, focused on the former first lady. (The RNC’s efforts appear geared as much toward scaling back the number of televised debates the party holds in the 2016 cycle as toward blunting potentially positive portrayals of Clinton.)
So does the RNC think she’s the biggest threat? Yes. But they aren’t ruling out Biden. Nor, it seems, some politicians who might fit in the long-shot category.
"While Secretary Clinton is the clear front-runner, as she was in 2008 when President Obama beat her, we are not taking anything for granted and are developing research on other top contenders including Vice President Biden, Governors (Martin) O'Malley, (John) Hickenlooper and (Andrew) Cuomo and Senators (Amy) Klobuchar and (Elizabeth) Warren,” RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer told Yahoo News.
Whatever furious politicking may be going on behind the scenes, Biden recently took a little time to keep the mood between them light.
After Al Roker suggested Biden should take over the Today Show one morning, Biden said he might consider it – with Hillary as his co-host.