Carol Marin: Ridin' with Biden in Chicago

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“Be careful what you wish for,” Vice President Joe Biden joked on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert last week when audience members encouraged a 2016 presidential run. Photo by John Paul Filo, CBS via AP.

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Question: Under what circumstances might Joe Biden enter the presidential race?

Answer: If, by the end of October, Hillary Clinton can no longer withstand dropping poll numbers and increasing heat on her email and Benghazi controversies.


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Under that scenario, his entry wouldn’t alienate pro-Hillary women. And it would be viewed as riding to rescue the Democratic Party from ruin in the November 2016 election.


Hell! (An expression Biden uses with enthusiasm.)

Anything in this next election cycle is plausible if you consider Donald Trump’s rocket ride ahead of other GOP contenders.

Meanwhile, public good will continues to rise for the vice president in an almost inverse proportion to its diminishing approval of Clinton. Witness Biden’s emotional Thursday night appearance on CBS’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert when the audience chanted, “Joe! Joe! Joe!”

“Be careful what you wish for,” joked Biden in response.

In downtown Chicago, in a nondescript building on West Washington, a small but dedicated band of Biden believers are doing more than wishing. They are, as they like to say, “Ridin’ with Biden.”

The office, a shared co-op space cut up into small offices and cubicles, looks like a tech start-up complete with an electronic shuffleboard in a common area lit with a string of miniature Japanese lanterns.

“We call it Google Meets West Wing,” laughed Will Pierce, the 27-year-old political science major and Army reservist who has worked non-stop in a variety of campaigns, including that of then-Sen. John Kerry.

And he has done volunteer advance travel work for Biden and his wife, Jill.

“I believe he is the perfect person to represent our country and lead our country,” he said.

Pierce, a blue-collar African American raised in Rhode Island, formed the Draft Biden 2016 super PAC in March in a friend’s living room in the Loop. He started by soliciting $5 donations in 2,000 emails.

The grassroots effort has evolved into 30 paid staffers in five states including Illinois. It has logged 250,000 petition signatures on its website, and believes it will raise $2.5 million to $3 million within the next six weeks.

Pierce’s second-in-command is 31-year-old Ahmed Khan, an Indian American, who ran unsuccessfully for 50th Ward alderman in 2011. He worked mobilizing ethnic minorities for Barack Obama in 2008 and for Chuy Garcia in the 2015 mayoral runoff.

Joining Pierce and Khan is longtime Democratic political strategist Kitty Kurth, 55, who says she signed on as senior communications advisor “when I saw what they were doing and when I talked to Will about why they were doing it. I always like a David vs. Goliath. … It’s an uphill battle to draft a presidential candidate. I don’t think in reality its ever been done in the history of the United States. But if somebody wanted to draft a candidate like Joe Biden, I was in.”

If Joe Biden, still grieving the death of his son Beau, is conflicted about a run, this team is not.

“In March,” said Pierce, “a lot of people were writing us off.”


Not quite so much.


Follow Carol Marin on Twitter: @CarolMarin

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