Clinton for Biden? The rumor that wouldn’t die — and why it was never going to happen

November 1, 2013

In April 2012, we wrote about why the "swap Clinton for Biden" chatter wouldn't die -- and why the actual swap would never happen. In the wake of revelations in "Double Down", the new book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, that there was some consideration of making such a move, we though we'd re-post our original item.  It's below. Also, make sure to check out the eight best tidbits from "Double Down" here.


Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends an event to endorse Virginia gubernatorial candidate and former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe at The State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia, October 19, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

On Wednesday night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat down with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to talk about the various threats that face the United States across the globe .. and whether she is going to replace Vice President Joe Biden on the national ticket in 2012.Here’s the exchange:

BLITZER: “If the president of the United States says, ‘Madame Secretary I need you on the ticket this year in order to beat Romney,’ are you ready to run as his vice presidential running mate?”
CLINTON: “That is not going to happen. That’s like saying if the Olympic Committee called you up and said, ‘Are you ready to run the marathon would you accept.’ Well, it is not going to happen.”

So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?!

There is no rumor more impossible to knock down than the idea that President Obama might swap Clinton in for Biden at the last moment. Clinton has denied it in every way possible. Everyone around her insists it won’t happen. And yet, still the idea lives on.

Hoping to find out why the Clinton-as-vice-president rumor is so persistent as to be immune from facts, we sought a number of loyalists of the former New York senator seeking guidance.

“Clinton is catnip for cable,” said Phil Singer, who served as a senior aide on the former senator’s 2008 presidential campaign. “She’s a political icon with a job that keeps her above the fray and has numbers that most pols would kill for, so it’s not a surprise that people are talking.”

All true. Clinton does have stratospherically high poll numbers; a September 2011 CNN survey pegged her favorable rating at an eye-popping 69 percent. Just 26 percent viewed the formerly polarizing ex-first lady unfavorably. (Biden’s favorable/unfavorable score in that same poll was far less healthy: 42 percent saw him favorably, 41 percent unfavorably.)

Another Clinton ally was also quick to lay the blame for the ongoing Clinton-Biden swap at the feet of the media. “The press has got to stop writing about their favorite imaginary campaign and just cover the real one, which is plenty interesting,” said the source.

And yet the “blame the media” sentiment, while common, doesn’t get at the full picture of why Hillary on the national ticket still captivates. (Anecdote worth noting: At every talk the Fix gives — and we give them from time to time — one of the first questions is about the idea of a Clinton-Biden swap. We neverbring it up.)

One Clinton supporter provided three reasons — none on which included the media — for why the idea of a veep swap remains alive and well.

“A) Her 2008 supporters remain fervent,” wrote the source in an email to the Fix. “B) Some 2008 Obama supporters have buyer’s remorse/guilt. C) Her numbers are off the charts because she has been out of politics and done a good job as Secretary of State”.

That seems to strike at the heart of the never-say-die-ness of the rumors about Clinton for vice president (or for president in 2016). She retains a loyal base within the party — these people are also loyal to Obama but hold Hillary more dear — and has, if anything, strengthened her image as a major political figure in the years since she took on the Secretary of State job.

Figuring out the gen­esis of the rumor — or at least the perpetual motion machine that keeps it circulating — doesn’t change the fundamental reality of why Clinton won’t be on the ticket.

To swap Biden, who has done nothing major wrong since coming onto the ticket back in 2008, for Clinton would reek of panic within the White House. It would be cast, almost certainly, as Obama throwing a hail mary pass — not exactly the message an incumbent president wants to be sending.

But remember, just because it won’t happen doesn’t mean people will stop talking about it. These are the Clintons after all. And this is politics.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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