Biden denies speculation of a one-term pledge

A campaign promise to serve just one term if elected is "not something VP Biden is thinking about," his campaign said Wednesday.
Image: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a meet and greet on his "No Malarkey!" campaign bus tour at the Waverly Area Veterans Post in Waverly, Iowa
Joe Biden on his "No Malarkey!" campaign bus tour in Waverly, Iowa, on Dec. 4, 2019.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

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By Mike Memoli

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden denied Wednesday that he’s discussed making a pledge to serve only one term if elected president, rejecting a published report that it remained a consideration.

"I don't have plans on one term,” Biden told reporters between campaign stops in Nevada. "I'm not even there yet.”

Politico, citing “four people who regularly talk to Biden,” reported that the campaign had revived discussions about whether the 77-year-old should publicly make such a pledge, and that Biden himself had signaled to aides he would not seek re-election.

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The Biden campaign had earlier pushed back on the speculation.

"Lots of chatter out there on this so just want to be crystal clear: this is not a conversation our campaign is having and not something VP Biden is thinking about,” deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield tweeted.

Added campaign manager Greg Schultz: “This is not a conversation we are having among people who actually are running the campaign.”

NBC News reported in 2018 that as Biden’s inner circle began sketching out a potential presidential bid, it held general discussions internally and with its extended network of former aides and allies about potential ways to confront questions about his age, including the possibility of announcing a one-term pledge or the early selection of a running mate. But aides have also insisted those ideas were ultimately cast aside.

Biden himself answered flatly “no” when asked by a reporter in August if he would consider a pledge to serve only one term. The Politico story quotes Biden as being more circumspect when asked by The Associated Press about the idea in October. “I feel good and all I can say is, watch me, you’ll see,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I would run a second term. I’m not going to make that judgment at this moment.”

Biden would be 81 as he approached a potential re-election bid; his age has been a recurring topic on the campaign trail, among voters and his Democratic rivals. Last week in Iowa, a voter who also challenged Biden about his son’s business ties in Ukraine also questioned whether he had the mental faculties to serve, prompting Biden to challenge the man to a pushup contest.

Wednesday's denials do not address what Biden may have told confidantes privately. But Biden’s closest advisers have long stressed that what the former vice president might tell friends and allies in private conversations does not necessarily always indicate his true thinking, and that he often takes a position — even one he doesn’t intend to pursue — in conversations with others to try to vet ideas.

Biden has said publicly that he might not have run for the presidency in 2020 if Donald Trump were not in office. At a campaign stop in Iowa last month, Biden said, "the person who I anticipated running for president this year was Beau Biden, not Joe Biden,” referring to his son, who died in 2015.