Leave Joe Biden Alone, Please

Yesterday I made the case that Bernie Sanders’ maximum role–by no means probable, just possible–in the 2016 presidential nominating process is to become a sort of Gene McCarthy figure who could if he keeps making strides open the field to additional, more electable figures. He might himself be replaced, and in theory so might Hillary Clinton. This latter contingency is giving fresh hope to the extraordinarily assertive if shadowy group of people who keep insisting that the Vice President of the United States is about to jump into the race and leap into the lead.

At Politico today, there’s a somewhat snarky, somewhat poignant take from Edward Isaac-Dovere and Gabriel Debendetti on the apparently self-appointed Team Biden members who are generally predicting (and Biden himself once cryptically supported this timetable) Joe will go or stand down some time soon.

Joe Biden’s trial balloon is being inflated without him.

Seriously, people who claim to be insiders say, he’s going to run. Probably going to run. Definitely thinking about running.They think. Or they want to think.
It’s not that Biden’s done anything different since the last round of will he/won’t he stories.

It’s not that he’s put together a campaign staff or made any of the most preliminary of moves to show he’s interested in a 2016 White House run.

But even as the vice president has focused on healing himself and his family after the death of his son Beau last month, there’s a group of people who can’t stop talking to him about his prospects, encouraging him to run. And they can’t stop talking to reporters about what they’ve said and what they think they’ve heard back, either.

While these folks clearly don’t need much oxygen to keep this hope alive, they are having to deal with the unseemly nature of such talk when the object of their ambitions and his family are still mourning the untimely death of Beau Biden. The most outspoken Biden booster, the South Carolina Democratic warhorse Dick Harpootlian, has gotten pretty close to the edge by working that tragedy into his talking points:

“That the VP was back in D.C. yesterday standing next to the president was a good sign for those of us that want him to do this,” said Dick Harpootlian, the former South Carolina Democratic chairman who’s always eager to boost Biden’s prospects — and told The Wall Street Journal earlier this week that Beau Biden had wanted his dad to run.

You almost get the sense the family tragedy has become the latest excuse for Biden not giving his fans what they want to hear:

“The guy’s just been through the toughest month any parent could ever have, and no one’s going to blame him or criticize him if he does something other than run for president of the United States,” Harpootlian said. “At this point, unlike other folks who are being touted as possible, his decision to run for president will have nothing to do with money, polling or anything like that. … Four weeks ago? Yes. But he’s lost his son since then. I do believe that we’ll hear something late this month, early next month.”

I’d say please leave the man alone for now. The thing about being Vice President of the United States is that Biden’s the one theoretical candidate who could get into the presidential race as late as he wants–or instead stay out if the hypothetical Clinton meltdown and/or Bernie Sanders boom fail to materialize. So he need not say anything this month or next. He’s got more important things on his mind than what to say at the Wing Ding Dinner in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.