Biden has ramped up his interest in the mechanics of the race, and has become more comfortable with a candidacy
"His heart is getting there more day by day," one donor said
Filing deadlines in Texas, Michigan, New Hampshire and other states are approaching in November
Plans to skip the Oct. 13 Democratic presidential debate
Vice President Joe Biden, who has been openly toying with the idea of seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, is now privately leaving the impression with some political allies that he is leaning toward running, according to two senior Democrats who have spoken with him in recent days.
The vice president – directly, no longer only through his advisers – has sounded more like someone inclined to jump into the race to challenge Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic field. He has ramped up his interest in the mechanics of the race, and has become more comfortable with a candidacy, several people who have spoken to him say.
As the logistical deadlines for decision-making approach, the timing for an announcement is likely within the next two weeks, several Democrats believe. He is not planning to attend the party’s first debate next week, but one date on the calendar could be enticing to have made his intentions clear: A Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner speech in Iowa on Oct. 24.
In his recent discussions with friends, the idea that he could fall short of capturing the nomination does not seem to be a big concern. The conversations have moved beyond the notion of boosting Biden’s spirits to hard questions about whether the 72-year-old vice president is up for a run he could lose.
“He knows he has faced that before and has always landed on his feet,” one close friend says, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid violating Biden’s trust. “His head is in the right place.”
While several outside friends believe Biden wants to run, there are a number of his associates and allies who caution that a candidacy is not yet a done deal. His own camp is filled with conflicting views.
Biden could decide, at any time, to pull back. Just a month ago, one cautioned, it looked as if he might not do it. And while some say they have sensed a shift toward “yes,” nothing is definitive until Biden himself starts calling influential Democrats in early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire to tell them he is running.
The situation, another Biden ally says, is “changeable and fluid.”
One top Democrat with knowledge of Biden’s thinking says the vice president is very well aware he has failed at running for president twice before, and “came out just fine,” so the prospect of losing doesn’t seem to bother him. Another ally says Biden sees this as a political opening – particularly after a life in public service – that a sitting vice president should not cast aside.
Biden believes he would have the money and the organizational support he needs to run, including from many in the party who are not enthusiastic about Clinton’s performance as a candidate. Biden recently told one ally that “you’d be surprised” at the people who would come out to support his campaign.
Still, some of Biden’s top lieutenants are already working on the Clinton campaign. Others worry that a run would not be a healthy prospect for the vice president, who only four months ago lost his son, Beau, to cancer. And still others see the possibility that Biden could become a spoiler in the Democratic race, hurting Clinton—the candidate they believe has the best chance of success against any Republican.
In fact, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday shows that if Biden were to enter the race, Clinton’s lead in Iowa over Bernie Sanders would drop from 11 points to just five points, which is close to the poll’s margin of error. If Biden were to enter, the Iowa poll now shows Biden in third place with 22%, behind Sanders at 28% and Clinton leading with 33%.
In New Hampshire, where Sanders leads Clinton by 9 points without Biden in the race, the polls finds that his lead increases with a Biden entry to 14 points. In that race, at this point, Biden remains a distant third.
For more than two months, aides to Biden have been assembling a checklist of what he would need to do to launch a candidacy. Potential campaign managers in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have been identified, according to several Democrats with knowledge of the planning, and dozens of major contributors have stepped forward.
The vice president has moved from “50% to more like 85% yes,” says one potential donor, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with Biden. “His heart is getting there more day by day.”
His potential donor network was buzzing throughout the weekend as anticipation of Biden’s candidacy accelerates. More than 65 major bundlers have been identified, two top Democratic fundraisers say, and many others are waiting in the wings if Biden announces.
“The more folks who are coming out publicly to express their support is making it easier for others to show the water is safe,” said Jon Cooper, a major donor for President Barack Obama who has signed on as the finance chairman of the Draft Biden movement. “The vice president should now understand he will be able to raise the money.”
The vice president is also heartened by some of the organized labor support he believes he could receive, including from one of the country’s most politically powerful unions, the International Association of Firefighters. Last week, the firefighters union decided to hold off on endorsing Clinton or any other candidate – for now, at least – until Biden makes a decision.
While Biden has been mulling this decision for months, time is now running short, with filing deadlines in Texas, Michigan, New Hampshire and other states approaching in November. Even after he made a decision, it would take a few weeks to put together the infrastructure to mount a campaign.
There is no absolute deadline for Biden’s decision. The Iowa caucuses, for example, have no filing deadline at all. But he would lose the chance to compete for primary delegates in many states across the country if he didn’t set his campaign into motion by the end of the month.