Biden, a spry 70, keeps a travel schedule that would exhaust most men half his age. But he will be 73 when the next election rolls around, and those close to him said he knows his age would be an issue.
For Biden, who has been running for office since his 20s, not running would feel unnatural — especially if his vice presidency is deemed successful, those close to him say.
But not running also offers him a chance to make serious money for the first time in his life. Biden, who ranked among the poorest senators, could rake in millions of dollars in short order by hitting the speaking circuit, publishing a memoir or serving on corporate boards. Biden finds the prospect of building a financial cushion for his family particularly alluring, confidants said.
Sometime in the next two years, advisers said, Biden will sit down with his wife, Jill, three children and the rest of their family to decide whether to launch another national campaign. (Biden declined through an aide to be interviewed for this article.)
“I don’t think it’s any real secret that it’s something that he’s going to think about,” said Biden’s eldest son, Beau, the attorney general of Delaware. “I want him to give it real thought. I think he’d make a great president.”
The vice president thinks the 2016 speculation keeps him relevant and helps give the Obama administration political leverage in the second term, people close to him said. If Biden announced that he was not going to run, the thinking goes, it could hasten the administration’s eventual lame-duck status.
Besides, many said, Biden enjoys all the buzz.
“It’s like being a baseball player and people speculating about whether you’re going to be in the Hall of Fame,” Kaufman said. “Clearly, this is the ultimate compliment.”
‘He is himself’
One question hanging over the deliberations is whether Biden can win. He’s run for president twice and failed miserably. In 1988 he withdrew before the primaries after a plagiarism scandal, and in 2008 he dropped out the night of the Iowa caucuses after garnering just 1 percent of the vote.
The odds for a third try are not good, at least based on recent polling — which, 31
2 years out, should be taken with a grain of salt. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found that 65 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support Clinton, while 13 percent back Biden. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo stood third, at 4 percent.
If Clinton does not run, 45 percent would support Biden, with 15 percent for Cuomo and other potential candidates in single digits.
Relative to 2008, when Obama began as an underdog but overtook Clinton as the front-runner, it could be more difficult for Biden to make a powerful impression and surpass her because his public image is well established.