And people keep coming up to him everywhere he goes—such as the woman who came to see him at a speaker-series event last week in San Mateo, California, and at the end nudged her way up to the front with her cane.
“You have to run,” she told him. He thanked her. She kept going. “I am 89 years old and we need you. If you promise to run, I’ll promise to stay alive long enough to vote for you.”
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Usually he deflects, often with a joke. Sometimes he pulls the people who break down in front of him in for a hug, or for some of the women, a kiss on the forehead or the cheek. There was the older woman at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall in Pittsburgh on Labor Day who told him, “God has a strange sense of humor,” that maybe everything with Donald Trump and Biden’s son dying was some sort of divine test to put him in the Oval Office. There was Joey Purpura, the 39-year-old apprentice coordinator for a local laborers’ union who said he grew up watching Biden on C-SPAN, and who waited an extra hour after Biden finished his brief midterms pop-in in Iowa at the end of October. He also told Biden to run.
“A lot of people did,” Purpura said afterward, reenacting the way the former vice president had looked at him. “He made a comment about how I reminded him of the guys he grew up with.”
And there was Melanie Rigden, the 19-year-old sophomore who walked out of Biden’s stump speech in Madison and had her friend record a video to post: “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. We have a picture with Joe Biden. He literally shook my hand,” she gushed into the iPhone camera. “My whole body’s numb. I think I cried twice.”
“He and Obama mean everything to me,” Rigden said afterward. “I would love to see Biden 2020.”
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Every politician loves the ego stroking of being told to run for president. Few politicians are such emotional thinkers as Biden.
“It is certainly powerful to hear from people in all corners, and people in unlikely corners, that he should run,” a Biden adviser said. “He hears it, he considers it, he feels it. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be his decision, and a personal decision.”
These are odd times for Biden. He gets dismissed as too old, or he gets held up as the only adult who can actually come in to lead the Democrats to beat Trump in 2020. He is to many in his party the perfect answer to how to win back the white working-class voters that he helped bring in for Barack Obama, but to others he’s a relic of a Democratic Party of the past.
For many older voters, he embodies the nostalgia of what politics used to be, and for many younger voters who came of age during the Obama years, he’s a powerful psychological bridge to simpler, easier times.