Don’t sleep on Joe Biden

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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When talk turns to who will succeed Barack Obama as the Democratic standard bearer, Vice President Joe Biden usually gets a perfunctory mention. But Biden is sending signals he might be taking a presidential bid seriously, and the truth is, his odds aren’t as laughable as you might think.

In the last few days, Biden has made news by calling that Syracuse player who hit the game winning shot — and by taking his own shot at Republicans during a Democratic caucus retreat.

But it was what was said about him at that same retreat that I found the most telling. During his introduction, Rep. James Clyburn, the Assistant Democratic Leader, said Biden “might be the most important vice president in history.” Clyburn also hinted at a Biden presidential run, saying: “For some strange reason, Joe Biden has developed an affinity for South Carolina.”

Speaking of South Carolina and coincidences, excerpts from Clyburn’s forthcoming memoir just happened to be leaked this week, which allege that Bill Clinton excoriated the influential black Congressman after his wife’s loss to Barack Obama in the Palmetto State, blaming him for her defeat. The news only served to remind everyone of Bill Clinton’s now-infamous remarks, in which he compared Barack Obama’s win in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson’s caucus victory some twenty years earlier.

You don’t have to believe Vice President Biden is Vice President Frank Underwood (from South Carolina) to suspect that of this is structured and not by chance. One might even surmise this is the beginning of some sort of campaign to make Joe Biden more relevant, heading into 2016.

And besides, is it that absurd to think Biden could be the Democratic nominee? I mean, when was the last time a political party didn’t nominate its two-term vice president who sought it? In modern history, vice presidents Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and Al Gore all sought, and won, their party’s nominations. Bush is particularly instructive, inasmuch as he had to fend off several challengers, including Rep. Jack Kemp and Sen. Bob Dole.

Granted, none of these candidates had to run against a former First Lady who had also served as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. But there’s no guarantee Hillary will run, or that she will run a great campaign if she does. And as Dan Balz and Philip Rucker note, “Beyond Clinton and Biden…the party has few elected officials with national standing.”

“One thing Democrats seem to agree on,” they continue, “is this: If Clinton decides not to run, there will be chaos inside the party.” Chaos could be Joe Biden’s best friend.

Should Hillary decline to run — or should she stumble again (which is not an absurd possibility) — who would be financially or logistically better prepared to fill the vacuum than Barack Obama’s sitting veep?

He may have some baggage, but one thing is for sure, and that is that Joe Biden doesn’t lack self confidence, or an interest in running for president. You don’t run for president in 1988 and 2008 unless you have the fire in the belly that won’t go away. This is something he clearly wants, and, as Vice President Underwood would probably agree, an insatiable political appetite is not to be underestimated in politics.