‘There may be reasons I don’t run, but there’s no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run.”
There you have it. The august words of Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. to CNN last week, when asked about his presidential prospects.
Biden has been running, or thinking about running for president, for most of his adult life. You’d think he could be a bit more articulate.
Still, even his mangled syntax makes news. Even more than two years out, “Who will run in 2016?” is the favorite parlor game of the political classes in Washington, D.C., and beyond.
Biden, naturally, resides near the top of the list. By 2016, he will be closing out two terms as vice president. He offers a long and illustrious career in the U.S. Senate, including a stint as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Already a two-time presidential candidate, he well knows the pressures and pitfalls of the hustings.
His CNN pronouncement was well-timed. Until recently, Biden had received good marks as a loyal and active vice president to President Barack Obama.
Then, last month, Biden took a highly publicized hit in the new, provocative book by former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. In “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Gates bluntly opined that Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
Biden might also be steamed that Gates scorched him but offered “high praise” for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as reported in the New York Times.
So some damage control was in order.
But take a closer look at the Biden interview, and note interesting hints lurking in the tea leaves.
CNN interviewer Kate Bolduan asked when he might decide on the run. “Realistically, a year this summer,” Biden replied.
That would be the summer of 2015, less than a year and a half out from the November 2016 election. That could be enough time, but only if Hillary Clinton takes a pass.
Clinton is the big foot (or shall we say, big high heel) for 2016.
If she gets in, the glare of her candidacy will blot out all other contenders.
While she continues to demur, Ready for Hillary, the unofficial campaign run by top Democratic donors, former Clinton advisers and consultants, is in full swing. If she gives the nod, other prominent Democrats like Biden will be scrambling for crumbs.
So the vice president is suggesting, in his trademark cheerful, ham-handed way, that he is prepared to run, but only if Clinton doesn’t.
Consider this other gem from the CNN interview: Biden said of a possible run:
“It doesn’t mean I’m the only guy that can do it, but if no one else I think can, and I think I can, then I will. If I don’t, I won’t.”
My read: He may not be “the only guy that can do it.”
But there’s a girl who can. If she does, it’s bye-bye Biden.