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Opinion Here’s how we know Joe Biden is serious about 2020

Former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. at a conference in Athens in June 2017. (Petros Giannakouris/AP)
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Former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. is a busy man. The Hill reported:

“On Tuesday, Biden campaigned twice in Pennsylvania with Democratic House candidate Conor Lamb, whom polls show has a good chance of pulling off an upset special election victory next week in a district long held by Republicans.
Biden this weekend will headline the Mansfield Metcalf Dinner in Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D) is up for reelection in November.
The following weekend, he’ll headline the North Dakota Democratic-NPL [Nonpartisan League] convention, campaigning on behalf of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, another Democrat who, like Tester, is facing a reelection fight in a state won by President Trump.”

Biden sure is acting like someone planning a presidential run in 2020 or, at the very least, someone keeping his options open for such a run. Traveling around the country on behalf of fellow Democrats allows him to stay in the public eye, keep in touch with donors and officeholders, demonstrate his political heft (provided those for whom he campaigns win their races) and, most importantly, position himself to get the endorsement of grateful Democrats. In other words, just as Mitt Romney did for the 2010 midterms, Biden is positioning himself as the indispensable defender of his party.

The objections to his candidacy are familiar. He’s old. He’s a little goofy. He’s a tad too “handsy” in the #MeToo era. But seriously, is there a single Democrat who could, in a large field, immediately command a big plurality, if not a majority, of the vote? He surely has the staff, the fundraising ability and, it seems, the energy and drive to run for at least one term. And if he is up against President Trump — who is only 4 years younger and looks much less fit than Biden — age, goofiness and his treatment of women will be much more problematic for the incumbent president than they will for the challenger.

Whatever you think of Biden’s politics, he does have the presence to stand up to Trump and to throw a punch or two of his own. Although there is a serious downside in running as a one-term candidate, Biden might embrace that option, present himself as being there to perform triage and get American democracy back on its feet before handing it off to the next generation. To the last point, he could distinguish himself upfront by selecting a younger running mate, most likely a woman and/or a minority. Could he persuade, say, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) to be his running mate — with the obvious opportunity to run for president on her own in 2024?

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Critics will say it is a sad commentary on the Democratic Party that it must rely on a septuagenarian to bring it back from the wilderness. Perhaps, but that is essentially what 69-year-old Ronald Reagan did in 1980 when he rode to victory for the Republican Party. Yes, Biden is no Reagan, but he could provide a bridge between the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton factions, and between one generation of Democrats and another. Let’s face it: As we look out on the potential field of 2020 contenders, we do not see among  the crop of contenders (either in the Senate or in state and local offices) someone who stands head and shoulders above the rest — and more importantly, someone who won’t be bullied and bulldozed by Trump.

In short, a Biden run isn’t as crazy as one might think. In any case, he would have the luxury of deciding whether to jump into the race until late in the run-up to the 2020 primaries. In the meantime, watch for him to stay on the campaign trail and collect political chits. He can decide in a year or so whether to cash them in.