Hillary Clinton does not have the 2016 Democratic nomination sewn up
Joe Biden has been considering a late entrance to the race
As Joe Biden might say, it would be a big deal if he runs for president. A “BFD.”
But there is one major obstacle: Inside the White House there appears to be little enthusiasm for a Biden candidacy.
A Democratic party source familiar with White House thinking said inside the West Wing “brain trust,” there is concern that a Biden run “would not have the right outcome” and potentially damage the vice president’s carefully cultivated brand of respected Democratic Party elder statesman.
“I’m not getting any sense of a Joe Biden caucus inside the White House,” the well-placed Democratic source said.
The White House has been heavily invested in Hillary Clinton’s candidacy since long before the current round of speculation about a Biden run.
White House invested in Clinton campaign
Forget the golf outings and glamorous parties on Martha’s Vineyard attended by both the Obamas and Clintons over the weekend. The Obama and Clinton camps are much more aligned than that.
Several top-level Obama aides have left the administration to work for Clinton, including former counselor to the President John Podesta and former Obama Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri. Plus, Democratic strategists both inside and outside the White House say the former secretary of state, not the Vice President, is now seen as the best hope of protecting and expanding the president’s legacy.
For example, President Barack Obama would love to see universal pre-K become the law of the land, but he’s realistic that that will never happen with a Republican Congress. “Maybe Hillary will get that,” the president has been quoted as saying in meetings.
Another important sign that Clinton’s campaign has Obama’s seal of approval was the placement of former deputy White House chief of staff and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina as head of pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA.
Messina would never have gotten had that job “without the boss’s approval,” a Clinton source said.
Clinton success could be linked to Obama
Clinton has also become invested in a successful end to the Obama presidency.
“She needs us to do well more than we do,” one White House official quipped recently, underscoring the importance of the last 18 months of the Obama presidency to the Democratic frontrunner.
After dismissing the Obama foreign policy mantra of “don’t do stupid stuff” as “not an organizing principle” to the Atlantic Magazine last year, Clinton has embraced much of the President’s agenda oversees, from the Iran nuclear deal to the normalization of relations with Cuba.
Clinton may stake out a “10 to 15% difference” from the president on policy issues during the course of her campaign, one Clinton confidante said.
“This is her biggest risk,” the confidante added, saying Clinton is all but running as Obama’s vice president.
Biden could change all of that. One top Democratic strategist said she’s “not putting any money” on whether Biden will run, noting that decision will likely come from the Vice President’s gut.
Despite the torrent of speculation about Biden’s future, the current thinking inside the White House is that he will stay on the sidelines in 2016, after some well-deserved soul searching. A Biden candidacy is “not a conversation” people are having inside the White House, that well-placed Democratic source said.
“My understanding from the people closest to him is that all of them would be very surprised if he were to do this,” the source added.
Biden spent part of his vacation last week in South Carolina considering a White House run.
Late September Deadline
Since then, he has traveled to his home base of Delaware. But a decision is expected by the end of the summer, this source said – not the end of August, as some people think of summer, but by Sept. 23.
Setting aside the real concerns about the outcome of a Biden candidacy, there remains great affection for the vice president inside the White House.
Top aides to the president have said repeatedly in recent weeks that Obama considers his selection of Biden as his running mate in 2008 the smartest political decision he’s ever made.
“The Vice President has been uniquely suited for this role. He’s somebody that had a long career as a fighter for the middle class,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters earlier this month.
“The Vice President has earned the right to make a decision for himself on his own timeline about whether or not to pursue a campaign for the presidency in 2016,” Earnest added.
With the Vice President spending the day in Delaware, there may be speculation that Biden is nearing a decision on running. A source familiar with the Vice President’s thinking cautions that is not the case.