Replace Biden with Hillary Clinton? No way, White House says

Olivier Knox

Did President Barack Obama’s top re-election campaign officials consider replacing Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Not seriously, the White House insisted on Friday.

“What I can tell you without a doubt is that the president never considered that, and had anyone brought that idea to him he would have laughed it out of the room,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

The Clinton-for-Biden swap talk is one of the more eye-popping claims in the campaign-centered “Double Down: Game Change 2012.” The book contends that senior strategists for the president's re-election campaign conducted extensive focus-group tests and polling on the matter in late 2011 when it seemed the president risked losing his bid for a second term.

“Campaigns, and pollsters as part of campaigns, test a lot of things,” Carney insisted. “I mean, they poll and focus-group on what you have for breakfast.”

Carney, a former spokesman for the vice president, said Biden “has been an asset to this president in two campaigns and throughout five years of this administration.”

“Whether it was handling the implementation of the Recovery Act, handling the very sensitive and important portfolio of Iraq in the first term or his key role in working with Congress on some very important negotiations, Joe Biden has been an excellent partner, in the president's view," Carney said.

The Obama team also leaned on Biden as a key political surrogate. During both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Biden was often deployed to swing states to speak to white working-class voters who were less receptive to Obama himself.

“And then as a candidate, I think if you look at the role he played in 2012 and you look at the job he did in his debate, I think there is little doubt that he was an enormous asset to the entire cause and enterprise,” Carney added. “If you look back at 2012 and you look at that moment in the campaign when the vice president had his debate, it was a key moment. And Joe Biden delivered of the ticket. I think there's no question about that.”

And then, perhaps because the White House doesn’t want to be seen as playing favorites ahead of the 2016 presidential race, Carney lavishly praised Clinton.

“You all know that he believes that Hillary Clinton did a magnificent job as secretary of state. He believes he made the right choice in running mate. He made the right choice in secretary of state,” the spokesman said.

So did Biden know about the focus groups and the polling?

“I’m not aware that he was aware of it,” Carney said.