Biden will need a careful way round Clinton

2015-08-03 22:10
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden stand on stage at the end of the Vital Voices Global Awards ceremony at the Kennedy Centre in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden stand on stage at the end of the Vital Voices Global Awards ceremony at the Kennedy Centre in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

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Washington - Joe Biden is reportedly considering entering the 2016 White House race, a longshot move to present him as a safety net for Democrats worried about a possible implosion by frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Biden, his family and his top advisors have begun actively exploring a run, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

They are discussing the prospect with Democratic rainmakers and even some Clinton supporters spooked by signs she is vulnerable despite her standing in the polls.

And it has been reported that Biden's beloved son Beau, who died in May, encouraged his father from his deathbed to run for president.

A Biden bid would unquestionably upend the Democratic nomination race.

But, should he run, he would have to decide whether to take his former ally and fellow former senator head on and exploit her vulnerabilities, or only pounce if and when Clinton, who has been dogged by scandal, veers into trouble on the campaign trail.

The vice president undoubtedly would be playing catch-up against Clinton, who has amassed millions of dollars in donations, has reeled in several Biden supporters, and has an overwhelming lead in Demoratic polls.

Clinton leads with 58%, according to a RealClearPolitics poll aggregate. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders is at 18.2, while Biden is third at 12%.

But polls also show mounting voter distrust in the former secretary of state, who has been dogged by a lingering email scandal and concerns about her family foundation.

Last week's Quinnipiac University poll had Clinton's favourability rating at 40 to 51%, her worst ever, while Biden's surged to 49 to 39, his best score in seven years.

Gut check

"He's probably looking at this and saying, 'Why not me?'" David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, told NBC on Monday.

"But then there is the other side of the equation, which is what it takes to put a presidential campaign together against a very formidable opponent," he added.

"I think that is a real big reality check here, so I'm a little sceptical about the bombshell of the weekend."

Biden would face an uphill battle. He is five years older than Clinton, who is 67, and a his nomination would deny Americans the chance to elect their first woman president.

Biden is likely to decide by late summer, the Times reported.

Clinton is due to testify before Congress on October 22, when Republican lawmakers will grill her about her role in response to the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks and her use of an unsecured personal email account while conducting State Department business.

Republicans have relentlessly bashed Clinton on the scandals, presenting her as a Washington insider who "cannot be trusted in the White House."

A Clinton implosion would give Biden a clear opportunity to ride in as the Democratic saviour, embracing the well-worn strategy of capitalising on a rival's stumbles.

Twisting the knife

But Biden may seek to avoid twisting the knife in the frontrunner's vulnerable side, said Joel Goldstein, a professor at St Louis University Law School and a leading authority on the vice presidency.

"Biden's style has not been to run that sort of a campaign," Goldstein told AFP.

"There's a lot of people who are critical of secretary Clinton, from Senator Sanders to Fox News, and I don't know that the vice president needs to add his voice in order to be a viable candidate."

Biden, Goldstein said, might "run more on who he is and what he's done," citing his 36 years in the Senate, experience as one of the most engaged vice presidents in a century, and a focus on issues ranging from protecting the middle class to the crises in Iraq and Ukraine.

A Biden candidacy received a boost when Josh Alcorn, a confidant and advisor to the late Beau Biden, joined the Draft Biden group that is hoping Joe Biden enters the race.

"Josh joining the Draft Biden effort only increases the serious nature of what to date has been an enormously successful effort," executive director Will Pierce said on Sunday.

"The country is ready for him to enter the race."

Read more on:    democratic party  |  hillary clinton  |  joe biden  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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