Here's Vice President Joe Biden on whether or not he will run for president in 2016: "There may be reasons I don't run, but there's no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run."
It's the latest quote in a long line of them that all make one thing crystal clear: Joe Biden would really like to run for president.
That's not a terribly surprising fact given that, in our mind, one of the best indicators of whether you will run for president is whether you have done it before. Once you get the bug, it never (really) leaves you. And, in Biden's case, he has already run for president twice before (1988 and 2008) and absolutely loves the hurly-burly of the political game. Plus, he's spent the last six years as the second most powerful politician in the country and, prior to that, spent three decades in the Senate. "For me, the decision to run or not run is going to be determined by me, as to whether I am the best-qualified person to focus on the two things I've spent my whole life on -- giving ordinary people a fightin' chance to make it and a sound foreign policy that's based on rational interests in the United States," Biden told CNN.
There's just one thing in the way of Joe Biden's presidential ambitions. Her name is Hillary Clinton and, as we have written in this space recently, she is the biggest favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination since at least 1984. In a WaPo-ABC News poll in late January, Clinton led Biden by an eye-popping 73 percent to 12 percent margin in a hypothetical 2016 Democratic primary. While early polling is just that, getting into a race in which you start down by 60+ points against a candidate who is already universally known and will be incredibly well financed, makes for a very, very, very difficult race.
Biden and his political team, of course, know all of this. And, we continue to believe that there is no way that Biden runs if Hillary decides to get in -- no matter what the vice president says now. So, what's he up to with the I-really-am-going-to-run-seriously-I-am-not-kidding rhetoric? He's working like crazy to reserve his place at the front of the line if Clinton doesn't run.
Remember that the things candidates say about their interest in running at this point in an election cycle is almost always aimed at the media, donors and activists. (Regular people barely pay attention to elections in an election year.) So, Biden is really talking to that group of insiders. And what he's saying is "If she doesn't run, I'm in. The line starts behind me." Biden wants to make sure that major donors and early state activists who will be free agents if Clinton doesn't run know not to sign on with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, New York Gov Andrew Cuomo or anyone else before they talk to him.
It's a smart piece of messaging from Biden. Rather than allow the ambitious second-tier candidates to raise doubts about whether he would be a candidate in a Hillary-less race, Biden is making sure there is absolutely no uncertainty.