Pro-Biden group looking to seize on Joe-mentum

Story highlights

The Draft Biden group has received renewed attention in the wake news reports of a potential Joe Biden bid

On Sunday, Josh Alcorn, a close confidant and adviser to the late Beau Biden, joined the group

Washington CNN —  

As Joe Biden goes, so goes Draft Biden.

The chatter around whether the vice president will launch a presidential bid has reached a high point in the last 72 hours. Rising with it: The importance and relevance of Draft Biden, a super PAC aiming to convince the former Delaware senator to run in 2016.

What is Draft Biden?

Draft Biden, also known as Run Biden Run, is a draft campaign that launched in March 2015. The group aims to get Biden to run for president and was partly born out of resentment for Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush winning the White House.

The group is largely staffed by Democratic operatives who worked or volunteered for President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Headquartered in Chicago, it currently employs 12 full-time staff and relies on a host of volunteers. They have three full-time organizers on the ground, one each in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

William Pierce, a 26-year-old Democrat, is the group’s executive director and oversees most of their day to day operations. Pierce was a volunteer on Biden’s 2008 campaign.

On Sunday night the group announced that Josh Alcorn, a close confidant and adviser to the late Beau Biden, is joining Draft Biden as a senior adviser. His presence provides some gravitas to the group: Alcorn is close with the Bidens and their world of supporters. The fact he agreed to get on board could represent a serious stamp of approval from Biden’s inner circle.

What is their purpose?

Like any independent organization not directly tied to the candidate himself, Draft Biden is limited in how much they can sway a decision to jump into the presidential contest.

Until Sunday, no one associated with the group is directly associated with Biden, either as a former aide or major fundraiser. And they have no direct contact with the Vice President’s office or potential campaign advisers.

But they have kept the flame for a Biden campaign burning, even as other potential contenders like Elizabeth Warren declared themselves out of contention.

Ardent Biden supporters, without an actual campaign to latch onto, have migrated to this independent group, keeping his name on the roster of potential candidates even as he says little about his intentions.

They’ve also gathered a critical component to any political operation – email addresses for potential supporters, which can be used later on to solicit campaign cash or volunteer hours. As of last week, Draft Biden had collected more than 150,000 addresses, which could be transferred to a Biden campaign, should one materialize.

Why the renewed interest in Draft Biden?

Quite simply, because chatter around Biden 2016 has reached a high point in the last few days.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported Saturday that as Beau Biden was dying, he tried to make his father promise to run in 2016 in an effort to not let the presidency be turned back over to the Clintons. The column kicked off days of speculation around a Biden run, including reporting that Biden’s close advisers are meeting with Democratic donors about a possible campaign.

The staff of Draft Biden were elated and their social media accounts proved it. They quickly retweeted and pushed out every story about a possible Biden bid.

“We have seen a lot of momentum of the past few weeks,” Pierce said on Monday. “Not only financially but also in outreach. A lot more people are calling us and returning our calls.”

What are their biggest challenges?

Draft Biden runs into the same problems that any draft campaign has to deal with, and more.

To date, the group has struggled with fundraising and has failed to gain the same kind of traction that other draft campaigns – namely, Ready for Hillary – garnered throughout 2014 and 2015.

Part of the problem is Biden himself.

The vice president told reporters in February that he would make up his mind on a presidential run “sometime in the end of the summer.”

The comment shut down much of the speculation around the vice president and, in part, signaled to some Biden supporters that it was time to look elsewhere.

What do they have in the bank?

Draft Biden has raised about $100,000, a far smaller total than the about $6 million the group’s executive director told CNN in March they hoped to pull in by the end of the year.

The organization’s leadership says the smaller haul isn’t a setback, instead pointing to a wide network of Democratic backers they claim are still waiting for a candidate to rally behind.

“It hasn’t been a disappointment,” Pierce said of Draft Biden’s fundraising.

Jon Cooper, the group’s national finance chair, said his efforts on behalf of the independent group have led him to believe a vast fundraising network would welcome Biden should he decide to run – including a swath of supporters and campaign bundlers who backed Obama during his two campaigns for president. That group aside, Clinton’s team has hardly had trouble pulling in cash, reporting a $45 million haul at the beginning of July.

“I think the Biden campaign will be able to tap into that overnight,” Cooper told CNN. “We’re already laying the groundwork for that.”