All Eyes on Hillary Clinton, But Will Joe Biden Run For President?

Image: Joe Biden
Vice President Joe Biden gestures after donning a pair of sunglasses as he delivers the Class Day Address at Yale University, Sunday, May 17, 2015, in New Haven, Conn. Biden urged graduating students to question the judgment of others, but not their motives to build consensus. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)AP

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By Leigh Ann Caldwell

All eyes in the Democratic race for president are back on Hillary Clinton as she embarks Monday on her second trip to Iowa since she announced her candidacy a month ago. Even as she takes criticism over foreign donations to her family's foundation during her time as secretary of state and the fact that she is not answering many questions from the press, she continues to be the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart, Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid said Clinton is the only thing the Democratic Party has for 2016.

"There's no (other) all-stars out there. She has a clear field and I'm glad she does," he said.

But what about the vice president?

Vice President Joe Biden is arguably the most qualified. He's the vice president, with current and working insight into the demands of the job of president. He served in the Senate for three decades, including as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And he's run for president before - twice. His most recent attempt at in 2008 ended with a fifth place finish in Iowa and as Barack Obama's running mate. He comes from a working class background in Pennsylvania and still is not rich by politicians' standards. He appeals to the white, blue-collar voters that Democrats have had trouble attracting in recent national elections.

And Biden doesn't have a lot of baggage, other than a plagiarism scandal that tanked his 1988 bid for the presidency and a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth.

But Biden hasn't decided. While he said he will this summer he's barely talking about it.

Last year, Biden was more vocal about the possibility of running for the office. In February of 2014, he said on CNN that "there's no obvious reason "why he shouldn't run. But as 2015 rolled around and a Clinton candidacy became more clear, Biden's name stopped being mentioned.

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He said on NBC’s TODAY Show he would “do a good job” but “that’s not the focus now.” He said he would make an announcement in the summer.

As Biden "focuses" on his day job, Biden's name is rarely mentioned as an alternative even as Clinton faces negative press about her family's foundation and Republicans attack her.

But Biden has a group of supporters who aren't giving up. The Draft Biden movement, which formed in March, vows to work through the summer to collect half a million signatures in an effort to persuade Biden to run.

"This isn't a coronation. We need to make sure the person is ready for the job," Will Pierce, executive director of Draft Biden, said. "We all believe the vice president is ready for the job and we need someone who's going to do the job from day one."

Pierce is a former Obama campaign staffer. He said the group began a couple of months after some fellow employees from Organizing For America, Obama's former campaign arm, asked him if he would run an effort to get Biden to run. He agreed because he said that as a veteran he's impressed with Biden's knowledge of foreign policy.

"I appreciated the vice president's commitment to the military," Pierce added.

With former Obama campaign staffers creating the group, it is based in Chicago and employs just a handful of people. It touts volunteers and supporters in all 50 states. They are focusing their efforts mostly in Iowa right now, collecting endorsements, volunteers and signatures. In June they plan on opening an office there and hiring a state director.

As for other early primary states, the group plans on ramping up in New Hampshire and South Carolina, too.

Pierce said the effort is going strong. He plans to meet his three month $250,000 fundraising goal by the end of June. So far they have collected 30,000 signatures and gained the support of numerous elected officials in Iowa. That's a far cry, however, from the $1.7 million the Ready for Hillary group raised in its first quarter last year.

While Biden is far behind Clinton in the polls, he often comes in second place, ahead of other Democratic hopefuls.

Iowa State Sen. Tony Bisignano supported Biden in his first presidential run in 1988. He said he wished Biden "would run and not delay any longer."

"I think he's the most qualified. Personally I like him. I think he's well respected in Congress and around the world," Bisignano said. "Even though people make light of him sometimes, that's just Joe. That's part of his likeability."

Another supporter, fellow state Senator Joe Seng, said polling in Iowa shows that 40 percent of Democratic caucus participants are undecided.

"That's why my good friend Joe needs to announce," Seng wrote in a not-yet published opinion piece in the Quad City Times. "I supported Joe in his 2008 presidential bid, and now he's more familiar with the day-to-day of White House life as a two term Vice President."