On Thursday, with the announcement that former Viriginia Senator Jim Webb was jumping into the race, the Democratic presidential field hit five candidates total — if you're counting former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, that is, the longest of long-shots. It's a thin field compared to the Republican side, and with only one household name — it's beginning to look like a showdown between Hillary Clinton and liberal upstart Bernie Sanders. But what if another high-profile Democrat was waiting in the wings? Will Joe Biden actually run for president in 2016 after all?
Throughout last year, Biden's name was one of many prospective possibilities for the Democrats, and that makes natural sense. As an incumbent two-term vice president, and one with longstanding ambitions for the top job — he's run twice before, in 1988 and 2008 — you'd expect him to be interested. But the election news cycle had sort of passed him by in recent months, due to the perceived invincibility of Clinton's primary campaign, his uninspiring poll numbers, and the tragic illness and death of his son Beau.
But now, the rumors appear to be heating up again — according to a report from The Christian Science Monitor, a major Democratic fundraiser believes there's an 80 percent likelihood that good ol' Uncle Joe will be jumping in for his last, best chance to win the presidency.
Here's what Jon Cooper, a businessman and former Obama fundraiser, told the Monitor about the effort. On Thursday, it was announced that he'd signed on as national finance chairman for the Draft Biden 2016 Super PAC.
I’m as convinced as I can be that Joe Biden will be entering the presidential race.
In recent history, sitting vice presidents have made potent presidential candidates. Over the past 30 years, two out of three two-term VPs have taken the plunge — George H.W. Bush mounted a successful run after eight years as Ronald Reagan's VP, and Al Gore came within a hair's breadth of winning after eight years as Bill Clinton's number two. Dick Cheney never ran, likely owing to his notoriously poor health — he actually signed a letter of resignation and sealed it in his office, in case he suffered a heart-related incident that left him in an unresponsive state.
In Biden's case, he faces a pretty abnormal set of circumstances. He'd undoubtedly be trailing Clinton by a huge margin from the get-go, but his current place in the polls should still give him some cause for optimism.
A recent CNN/ORC poll had him at second place nationally, at 16 percent, just outpacing Sanders at 14 percent. This is noteworthy, because Biden hasn't been campaigning, or even dropping public hints that he might run yet, compared to Sanders who's been campaigning for months. In other words, he's showing a higher floor to start from than Sanders has, and you never know — given a few months of hard campaigning himself, who's to say he couldn't strike a little fear in the Clinton camp?
If anything seems obvious, however, it's that he doesn't have much longer to wait. Besides him, there really aren't any other Democrats expected to run in 2016 — the movement to draft Massachusetts senator and progressive icon Elizabeth Warren, for all its enthusiasm, didn't end up going anywhere. And with Sanders drawing surprisingly big crowds and gaining momentum, Biden would be wise to make a move soon if he's going to — according to The Wall Street Journal, he's expected to make a decision by August.
Images: Getty Images (2); CNN/ORC