No, I don’t think that Biden will run. If, for some reason, Hillary Clinton decides that she flat-out doesn’t want to run at all, then I could see Biden jumping into the race, but I can’t see that happening right now. Hillary might get fed up eventually and decide that she just doesn’t have the appetite for everything that comes with running for President, but she’s at least going to get in the race first, and I can’t see Biden running unless she surprises everybody and doesn’t announce at all.
Biden is one of the few candidates that has the option of waiting until later in the year to make a decision because he has a national platform (the Vice Presidency), extensive name-recognition, and a built-in campaign organization with nearly 45 years of experience and the networks of fundraisers, advocates, surrogates, headquarters staff, and on-the-ground staff that comes with that experience. Biden also has the experience that comes with two Presidential primary campaigns (1988 and 2008), and could probably activate his campaign team in a matter of hours in order to build an effort in Iowa.
But Biden is also 72 years old right now, and while the Vice Presidency would give him many advantages in the case of a campaign, it also creates a lot of obstacles. First of all, everything that has happened since 2009 will be directly connected to Biden just as much as they will be connected to Obama — especially the failures — because that’s how Presidential politics works. Because Joe Biden is such an unceasingly loyal politician, he would be proud of that, but that could also cause problems for the remaining days of the Obama Administration and Biden’s loyalty would have a difficult time allowing that to happen. There would also be questions about how much freedom President Obama would give his incumbent Vice President to campaign for the Presidency when the Democratic nomination is up-for-grabs in an election that the Democrats have a very, very good chance of winning if they organize their nominating process well and don’t turn it into a circus. As the head of the Democratic Party until the next Democratic Presidential candidate if officially nominated, Obama has a responsibility to his party to remain neutral. I don’t think that Obama would have a difficult time remaining neutral, and I know that Biden would understand Obama’s position and have no issue with Obama remaining above-the-fray, either. But because Presidential politics is such as a strange world, the perception of Obama remaining neutral instead of issuing clear support for his very loyal, two-term Vice President would make it look as if Obama didn’t support Biden. It’s a simple problem of perception — if Obama isn’t openly supporting Biden, it will appear to some that Obama isn’t supporting Biden at all — and that will be enough to harm Biden’s campaign.
I think Joe Biden very much would like to be President, and I am positive that Joe Biden does not lack confidence in himself. But Biden is also a very astute politician, and timing is one of the most important things in politics — particularly Presidential politics. By his hesitancy to make the moves that a potential Presidential candidate would be making at this point in time, I think it is clear that Biden recognizes what his place will be in the 2016 election. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t run, or if her bid for the Democratic nomination quickly falls apart, I would expect Vice President Biden to sweep in and try to grab the nomination as the loyal, experienced, time-tested elder statesman of the Democratic Party who might not be everybody Democrat’s ideal candidate, but also a leader that Democrats think highly of.
But that would be only if Hillary Clinton’s candidacy goes off the rails and if Vice President Biden doesn’t see a better option other than himself. Joe Biden is a political realist, and if Hillary Clinton decided tomorrow not to run for President, I think he’d definitely think about running, and then recognize that he’s probably not the best option for the Democrats after Hillary. I think he’d recognize that Martin O’Malley would have a better shot at winning the election, and unlike most Republicans, Democrats tend to worry more about actual electability.
Don’t get me wrong: Biden is probably looking for every reason, excuse, and opportunity to be that best option for the Democrats, but he recognizes that the timing probably isn’t there for Joe Biden to be President. I’m sure that he’s not thrilled about that because Biden has never been shy through the years about saying that he’d love to be President. (Joe Biden has never been shy through the years about saying anything.)
That also doesn’t mean that Biden won’t be involved in 2016. In fact, Biden could play a huge role in 2016. If the timing is off and he running for President doesn’t work and he’s already spent nearly two terms as Vice President, so that’s almost certainly not an option again, Biden could potentially be the next best thing: in 2016, Joe Biden could be the Democratic Party’s Kingmaker (or, Queenmaker!). With the President likely remaining neutral in the case of any long-term primary battle for the Democratic nomination, Biden could become the most sought-after endorsement of all — a Superdelegate with a capital “S” who could potentially swing the nomination to a specific candidate by indicating his support and everything that comes with it (the already-constructed Biden campaign apparatus, four decades of fundraisers and supporters, the hold-outs hoping for a last-minute Biden campaign, and the unspoken connection to the White House and its current occupant). That could help decide the Democratic nomination if two candidates are locked in a lengthy battle for delegates (like Obama and Clinton were in 2008), and in that case, whomever Biden delivered his support to would be indebted to the Vice President, so it could help decide Biden’s future. If he helped decide the nomination in favor of the person who eventually was elected President, Biden could probably pick what he wanted to do next — Secretary of State? Supreme Court Justice? Ambassador to the United Nations? Special Presidential assistant for administering the oath of office to Cabinet members and then acting borderline inappropriate with family members? Biden could write his own ticket in that case, and it would help get over any disappointment about his own Presidential hopes.