Does Joe Biden really think he can beat Hillary Clinton in 2016?

The Week
Odds be damned: Joe Biden has an itch that only the Oval Office can scratch.
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Odds be damned: Joe Biden has an itch that only the Oval Office can scratch.

Clinton has a huge early edge, but we're still a long way from the next election

It has become something of a foregone conclusion that if Hillary Clinton wants it, the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 is all hers.

That doesn't mean other Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, won't at least try to win the nod themselves. And Biden's backers say they are confident that not only could the vice president become the nominee, but that he could do so even if Clinton joins the race.

The improbable claim was reported this morning by The Wall Street Journal:

Biden loyalists aren't writing off the idea. They say he has ties to elected officials nationwide, can attract crowds and money, and is a visible part of an administration that is popular with Democratic voters.

"He's the vice president of the United States of America! When you're the sitting vice president and you're running against anybody, you still have a chance," said one person close to Mr. Biden. [Wall Street Journal]

With some two and a half years to go before the first votes are cast in the 2016 primaries, Biden's supporters are weighing how to best lay the groundwork for a successful campaign. One proposal in consideration involves establishing a political action committee (PAC) to raise and disburse money to favored candidates around the country, according to the Journal. Doing so would allow Biden to foster goodwill with well-connected party members nationwide — goodwill he could then cash in when campaigning in their states in the future.

To that end, Biden is already scheduled to make fundraising appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire. Both are key states for those with presidential ambitions since they hold the first two votes in the nominating process.

Though he has yet to say for certain whether he will run, Biden has said he is at least open to a 2016 bid. Whether he can actually win is another question altogether — and a laughable one, some might say.

A slew of early polls have shown Clinton leading everyone in a theoretical primary field by astounding margins of 50 points or more. A Quinnipiac poll in April, for instance, had Clinton at 65 percent nationally, followed by Biden at a meager 13 percent, and the rest of the pack way back at four percent or less.

While Democrats generally like Biden — 76 percent gave him favorable marks in an April Gallup survey — they're thrilled with Clinton; nine in ten Democrats in that same survey said they had a favorable impression of the former secretary of State.

At 70 years old, Biden would also be unusually old for a presidential nominee. Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) age became an issue in the 2008 presidential election, and he was 71 years old at the time. Biden will be 73 years old when the next primary season gets underway.

Furthermore, Biden has run — and lost — in the presidential horse race twice before. In 2008, he took just one percent of the vote in the Iowa caucus, and then dropped out the same day.

Finally, there is the prevalent view that Biden — who is arguably more famous for his avuncular gaffes and blue-collar depictions in The Onion than his policy accomplishments — is simply not presidential material.

Despite all that, though, there is at least one person who thinks Biden can win: Biden.

No vice president who has run to replace his predecessor has lost the nomination since Alben Barkley, President Harry Truman's number two, in 1952. Though he fared miserably in 2008, Biden could cite his active role in the Obama administration to launch a more successful campaign this time around.

Biden helped push through a major overhaul of the health care system, something Clinton famously tried but failed to do during her husband's presidency. And Biden publicly came out in favor of marriage equality before Obama, forcing the president's hand on the issue. He wouldn't exactly represent a third term for Obama, but he could at least frame his experience that way, to some degree, to excite primary voters.

The mere rumblings of a coming campaign are "a shot fired over the bow of the Clinton juggernaut," says Commentary's Jonathan S. Tobin, because they show that Biden, no matter the odds, is not afraid to take on Clinton.

"It's a reminder to Democrats that the man whose ego is bigger than the small state that sent him to the Senate for 36 years isn't inclined to go quietly into the night as the Obama presidency winds down," Tobin says. "The vice president has spent his life itching for the Oval Office and if you think he will be deterred from running by long odds, you don't know Joe Biden."

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