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Joe Biden’s decision: Media fail spectacularly

In an “exclusive” story for Politico, longtime Beltway reporter Mike Allen put forth this headline: “Biden eyes weekend decision.”

Only: That story was published Oct. 5, and so it alleged that Biden was eyeing a decision the weekend of Oct. 10-11, “or shortly thereafter.” Another caveat from Allen: “If the decision is a ‘go,’ the announcement could be delayed as advisers begin assembling a campaign.” And the vice president was leaning toward “yes,” Allen reported, based on impressions from “[s]everal people who have visited Biden recently.” At the same time, Allen made clear that associates were unsure which direction Biden would choose.

Allen’s story just suffered quite a blow: Biden did indeed delay his announcement, and it was a no. Standing with President Obama and his wife, Jill, at the White House, Biden said, “I believe we’re out of time, the time necessary to mount a winning campaign,” as he unwound the sort of address that would have come in handy in a presidential campaign.

No need to limit the criticism to Allen. Ed Henry of Fox News tweeted Monday:

For a good understanding of the media streetscape on this issue, just Google “biden leaning toward running.” Up pops the Wall Street Journal in late August writing that the vice president was “increasingly leaning toward entering the race if it is still possible he can knit together a competitive campaign at this late date, people familiar with the matter said.” Up pops a late August CNN report indicating that the vice president’s “team appears to be leaning more towards a presidential run than away from one, according to a Democratic source who has been in touch them.” Up pops an early October CBS News report, which quotes a pair of anonymous sources as indicating that Biden is “leaning toward entering the race.”

Leaning takes a toll on the body, but Biden managed to keep doing it for months. As recently as yesterday afternoon, very skilled CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny chatted with colleague Wolf Blitzer on the air about the possible run, with the latter saying that Biden’s recent comments about Hillary Clinton gave him the feel of a presidential candidate. Zeleny responded, “Well, Wolf, I can tell you — it sure sounds like he is leaning in that direction. Everyone we talk to says they’re left with the impression that he’s definitely running.”

Just moments ago, Blitzer and Zeleny shared their thoughts on CNN airwaves: “A lot of us are surprised,” said Blitzer. Zeleny: “He was telling many of his longtime friends, many of his allies, that he was leaning toward running,” responded Zeleny.

Of course he was! That’s precisely what an end-of-career, lifelong presidential hopeful with no shot of ever becoming president tells his longtime friends and allies, with the objective of ginning up favorable and anticipatory coverage that he’s going to run for president. Lesson: Place very little faith in the proclamations of “[s]everal people who have visited Biden recently.”

Behind the scenes with Joe Biden

During a quiet moment in his White House office, Vice President Biden meets with staff members. Some analysts have called him the most powerful vice president of the modern era, and President Obama has tasked him with many top priorities. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)