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Debate organizers to Biden: We’ll keep the podium warm for you

Vice President Biden would be allowed to participate in the first Democratic presidential primary debate even if he opted in at the last minute. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Vice President Biden could qualify to participate in the first Democratic debate even if he did not decide to enter the race until debate day, according to participation criteria released by host organization CNN on Monday.

The news organization's apparent message to Biden: despite the fact that he remains publicly uncommitted to launching a 2016 presidential run, it will keep a spot open for him.

The first Democratic debate, which will take place in Las Vegas, is already slated to feature former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia senator Jim Webb. Biden meets the minimum polling threshold put forward by CNN (a polling average of at least 1 percent in three major national polls) but would need to file a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission -- or merely publicly commit to filing such a statement -- before taking the stage.

Speculation over Biden’s political future has run rampant, even as he has expressed uncertainty about a run as his family mourns the death of his son, Beau Biden. His supporters’ fervor is in part motivated by several unexpected missteps by the Clinton campaign -- particularly regarding the controversy over her use of a private e-mail server during her tenure at the State Department -- that have left the presumed front-runner in a much weaker position than anticipated.

The Post’s Matea Gold reported earlier this month on the possible donor support for a potential Biden run:

Nearly 50 Democratic donors and party activists have signed a letter urging Vice President Biden to jump into the 2016 presidential race to compete against former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, calling him a leader "who understands the real challenges facing American families."

The letter -- whose signatories include some top bundlers for President Obama's campaigns -- underscores a nervousness among some in the party about Clinton's standing and a building hope that Biden will decide to run.

Some, such as party fundraiser Lou Frillman, had already signed up to help Clinton's campaign.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday showed Clinton leading rival Bernie Sanders 53 percent to 38 percent, a significantly smaller lead than the 34-point advantage she had in July.

But Biden's entry to the race could present a significant blow to Clinton's dominance over the field by siphoning off many of her supporters. When Biden was listed as a potential candidate in the poll, her support against Sanders dropped to 42 percent compared to his 35 percent, while Biden took 17 percent.

That fact wasn't lost on Republicans, who have playfully welcomed the vice president's candidacy -- and the rules that would allow him to take the stage in two weeks:  "Run Joe Run," the Republican National Committee's Sean Spicer tweeted Monday.