Joe Biden eyes bid for US president in 2016

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Joe Biden is using part of his holiday in South Carolina this week to sound out friends and family about a presidential bid, as some Democrats press him to enter the race and give the party another option in the face of lingering controversies involving Hillary Clinton.
Vice President Biden Address the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (Video)
From his holiday spot on Kiawah­ Island, the US Vice-President is giving the strongest signal yet that he is actively considering making a third run at the Oval Office­. He is asking political allies for advice and gauging the strength of Mrs Clinton’s campaign as he weighs his options, people familiar with the matter said. Mr Biden is expected to announce his decision next month.

“He’s taking input from a lot of people he cares about and respects­,” said James Smith, a South Carolina politician and Biden supporter who said he had urged the Vice-President to run. “He knows where I stand. It’s just got to be his decision.”

Mr Biden’s aides declined to comment on his potential weighing of a 2016 bid, saying family and work had been the Vice-President’s priorities since son Beau’s death in May.

Kendra Barkoff, Mr Biden’s press secretary, said “as the Biden family continues to go through this difficult time, the Vice-President is focused on his family and immersed in his work. In recent weeks, the Vice-President has worked on the nuclear deal with Iran, travelled across the country to highlight the administration’s economic priorities and more.”

Mrs Clinton remains the frontrunner for the party’s nomination in national polls, yet some party activists are growing anxious becaus­e of the expanding probes of her use of a private email server while US secretary of state.

“There are Democrats who are concerned about the turmoil swirling around the secretary with the emails and the server, and now the FBI is investigating and congressional hearings are coming up in the fall,” said Steve Shurtleff, the Democratic leader in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and a Biden supporter in the 2008 presidential campaign.

A Biden candidacy would be a fresh sign that the Democratic Party has yet to fully coalesce behind­ Mrs Clinton. In June, 75 per cent of registered Democrats favoured her in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll; last month, the figure was 59 per cent.

The surprising surge of primary rival senator Bernie Sanders also suggests there could be an opening for Mr Biden.

He’d have to start from scratch. Mr Biden has no “super PAC’’ (political action committee) to back his candidacy with independ­ent fundraising or a network of paid staff in early voting states.

And Mrs Clinton has signed up some of the party’s most seasoned pollsters, fundraisers and data analysts. His entry also could prompt Mrs Clinton’s supporters to rally around her if her potentially historic­ candidacy is threatened.

“She’s been working at this a long time and has built a massive operation,” said Brady Quirk-Garvan­, chairman of the Charles­ton County Democratic Party in South Carolina. Even people who like the idea of Joe Biden running would have to sit there and think: ‘Can he build an operation that would be able to defeat Hillary in four to six months?’ That’s much harder to do in this day and age than you would think.”

Difficult as it might be, the former US senator would come to the race with built-in advantages as an incumbent vice-president who has spent decades in politics. Longtime Democratic fundraisers already­ have said they would be willing to hedge their bets, which could help him raise cash fast.

Mr Smith said he had provided names of potential supporters to the Biden team, mapping out “what we can do on day one if he makes that decision”.

Mrs Clinton calls Mr Biden a friend and recently said: “We should all just let the Vice-President be with his family and make whatever decision he believes is right for him. And I will respect whatever that decision is.”

Her campaign declined to comment for this article.

As a candidate, Mr Biden could peel off some of the mainstream Democratic support Mrs Clinton is counting on to hold off Mr Sanders­, an independent who has gained enthusiastic support among the party’s liberal wing.

Mr Biden may also attract a broader constituency in a general election, including rust-belt Democrats, Catholics and white, working-class men, with whom he has some cultural affinity.

For Mrs Clinton, the path to the party’s nomination is proving more challenging than some predicted when she entered the race in April. She spent two days crisscrossing New Hampshire this week, trumpeting a plan to make college education more affordable and discussing substance-abuse issues­. Some Democrats who saw her said they harbour doubts.

Tom Lonnquist, who attended her town-hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire, said Mrs Clinton had the ability to do the job but that the Clintons’ “baggage” was a cause for concern. At the moment, “Bernie’s my plan B”, he said, adding that he “would not be unhappy” if Mr Biden ran, too.

After Mrs Clinton wrapped up her trip, a new poll came out showing Mr Sanders surging to a lead in New Hampshire, a longtime Clinton family stronghold. Though some Democrats worry that Mr Sanders is too liberal to win a general election, he is drawing large, enthusiastic crowds with his denun­ciations of the “billionaire class” and calls for more government involvement in healthcare.

Mrs Clinton has been unable to put to rest controversies involving foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and her use of the private­ email system while at the State Department.

On Wednesday, her campaign announced she was turning that server over to the Justice Department, after she said a few months back that she would not relinquish it. FBI agents have been looking into the security surrounding Mrs Clinton’s email system after government watchdogs found at least four of her emails that contained classified information.

Democrat Peter Tecklenburg, a county auditor in South Carolina, said of the email controversy: “The opposition has an opportunity to drag this thing out until November 2016. It’s not going to end.”

Mrs Clinton’s supporters say she will survive the email flap, and they don’t put much stock in a possible Biden candidacy. They point to Mrs Clinton’s organisational advantages in early-voting states.

Mrs Clinton also has been meeting with Democratic leaders in key states to answer questions and ask for their support.

The Wall Street Journal