What Does Joe Biden Have to Lose by Jumping In to the Presidential Race?

It’s the silly season of August, and political reporters can only write so many articles about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. So we get treated to the spectacle of a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren being played up as a precursor to his possible entry into the race, after a bit of short-lived speculation about even Al Gore taking another shot at the White House.

It’s probably all much ado about nothing as Hillary Clinton sees if she can win the nomination against Bernie Sanders in spite of her prevent defense approach to politics.

Still, most analysis of Biden’s potential presidential prospects is focused on who his endorsers, donors and natural constituency might be. Traditional analysis suggests that between Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley, Biden doesn’t really have a clear differentiated base of support or argument for his candidacy. One theory suggests that he’s the playing the role of the Democratic Party’s emergency parachute: a candidate who can step in and “save” the party from a Sanders nomination should Clinton’s campaign implode. Perhaps.

But from another perspective, it’s not as if Biden has much to lose by running, either. Having served two terms as Vice President after a career in the Senate, taking up a cabinet position like John Kerry has done might be in the cards for him, but Biden seems too simultaneously ambitious and affable for that. He has also seen his share of family grief and tragedy–more than most have in a lifetime. Retirement probably doesn’t seem like an attractive option. Most importantly, there are reports that his son Beau Biden reportedly wanted his father to run for President again, and attempting to fulfill his son’s wish would have to be an impulse too strong to deny absent a very good reason.

And that good reason doesn’t seem to exist. A Biden run wouldn’t necessarily hurt the Democratic Party’s fortunes. If the Clinton campaign is strong enough to withstand the challenge then Biden will have given it his all without regrets; if it isn’t strong enough, then that will be all the proof the Biden camp will have needed that Clinton wasn’t the best general election candidate. The biggest reason for Biden not to run is that the Clinton team might hold it against him afterward should she win office. But then again, so what? Would Joe Biden rather run his own foundation, or serve as a potential Clinton cabinet member in exchange for quashing his dreams? I can’t imagine avoiding punishment from camp Clinton is worth the price of a lifetime of regrets.

This is all just idle speculation, of course. It is the August silly season. But my gut tells me Joe Biden will ultimately jump into the race because he doesn’t have much to lose.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.