What is Biden up to? For one, he is casting off the shackles of the Obama team's attempts to control and box him in, as Glenn Thrush reports in a rich and delightful profile in Politico Magazine this week. Thrush's piece is, among other things, a detailed account of the litany of humiliations Biden has had to endure at the hands of an administration that has never taken him as seriously as he felt he deserved. The Democratic base has reason to love Biden beyond his goofy "Uncle Joe" image. As vice president, he has often been the point man for progressive causes, from forcing Obama to come out in favor of gay marriage to carrying the administration's gun-control agenda. But the Obamans have seriously restricted his ability to lay 2016 groundwork, and some—including 2012 Obama campaign manager Jim Messina—have already lent support to the Hillary Clinton campaign-in-waiting.
"Everybody wants to talk about 2016. That's lifetimes away," Biden proclaimed Thursday. But in the timetable of politics, it's not far off at all. Clinton has said she will decide whether to run sometime this year. The Republicans angling for their party's nomination have stepped up their jostling. With Clinton's plans still unknown, it would seem that if a Biden-for-president trial balloon is to catch a sudden fluke of an updraft, now would be the time.
There's no doubt that Biden wants to be president—he's wanted it basically his entire life—or that 2016 would be his last, best chance, based on his age and his current position. Whether he will run is a different question. A New York Times/CBS News poll this week found an overwhelming 82 percent of Democrats want Clinton to run. Biden came in second, with 42 percent. But compare those numbers with the fluid and fractured Republican field: The potential candidacy Republicans most want to see, that of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, is sought by just 41 percent of GOP voters.
Democrats really like Joe Biden. They just like Hillary Clinton better. And though they note that 2008's divisive Obama-Clinton primary didn't hurt the party that November, there seems to be little appetite for an intraparty fight in 2016. The Democratic Party leaders from around the country who gathered for this week's DNC meeting received Biden with deep enthusiasm for his message about mobilizing for this year's congressional elections, lifting up the middle class, and drawing a stark contrast with Republican proposals. But they stopped short of saying they'd put him ahead of Clinton for the nomination.
"I absolutely love Joe Biden," Mame Reiley, a committee member from Virginia, told me. "But if Hillary wants it, it's her time. If she wants to do it, I'm going to support her." If Clinton decides against it, on the other hand, Biden is busy making sure he's well positioned to capitalize.