Speculation swirling around Joe Biden’s potential presidential bid reached a fever pitch Monday with multiple anonymous sources whispering in new organizations’ ears that an announcement from the vice president could be expected within 48 hours, or perhaps over the weekend.
A few days earlier, Biden’s former chief of staff, Sen. Ted Kaufman, sent an email to former staffers ostensibly meant to answer the big question. It didn’t, but he seemed to suggest Uncle Joe might join the race with the coy line, “Let’s stay in touch. If he decides to run, we’ll need each and every one of you — yesterday!”
Biden has opted out of a late-entry like this one at least once before, bowing out of a potential bid in ’04 saying, “You just can’t parachute into a presidential campaign.” If he decides to jump in this time, he’ll will have lot of ground to make up against frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Here’s what he’ll have to contend with.
Declining public demand
Public support for Joe Biden to enter the race has been steadily falling in recent months, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Monday. In August, 53 percent of registered Democrats and left-leaning independents said they would support a Biden bid; that number fell to 47 percent after the first Democratic debate last week.
High favorability ratings…
The same poll shows that if Biden entered the race he’d hold an advantage over both of the top candidates in terms of favorability. Fifty one percent of Americans polled said they have positive feelings toward Biden, compared with 46 percent toward Clinton, and 41 percent toward Sanders.
Biden’s unfavorability ratings are higher than Sanders’, though — 37 percent of Americans polled have a negative opinion of him, compared to 29 percent for Sanders. Fully half of Americans polled, meanwhile, have negative feelings about Clinton.
…But low confidence in his abilities
According to that poll, Clinton is widely viewed as the most capable candidate to tackle every issue registered left-leaning voters were polled about: the economy, health care, race relations, climate change, foreign policy, gun policy and income inequality. She held an average 35-point advantage over Biden on those issues.
Big fundraising gap…
Draft Biden, the super PAC launched earlier this year to encourage a Biden run, was able to keep Biden in voters’ minds during the recent Democratic debate with a well-placed advertising spot, but as of late June (the most recent FEC disclosures available), it had raised only $85,880. The super PAC is no doubt ramping up its efforts, and of course Biden has not yet announced if he’ll run; but to put that number in perspective, between July and September the Clinton campaign raised $28.8 million, and the Sanders campaign $26.2 million. It’s fair to say there’s some catching up to do.
…But a long list of potential donors to tap
Democratic voters may be confident in Clinton on the issues, but the potentially good news for Biden is that top Democratic donors don’t seem confident enough in the candidate to put their money where their mouths are — yet. Less than 10 percent of top donors to President Obama’s campaign have solicited big donations on behalf of Clinton’s campaign, according to a USA Today analysis. Just 76 out of the 833 donors who collected money for President Obama in 2012 are listed among those who have bundled at least $100,000 for Clinton this cycle — leaving a lot of donors, potentially, for Biden to swoop in and scoop up. At least one big Obama bundler, Jim Torrey, has met with members of Draft Biden about throwing his fundraising weight behind the candidate.
Stiff competition for key endorsements
One of the strongest indications Biden is serious about a run came last week when the VP called up Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, for a casual chat. The powerful union at one point appeared poised to endorse Clinton, but informed her campaign it was rethinking its support earlier this month. Clinton already has the support of seven national unions, but a number of labor groups — the United Steelworkers, the SEIU, the Teamsters and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to name a few — still haven’t endorsed a candidate.
If Biden wants to win their support, though, he’ll face tough competition from Sanders, one of the most pro-labor mainstream candidates in recent memory. The Vermont senator has counted on strong support from unions his entire career — just take a gander at his list of top donors.