COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A key House Democrat suggested Monday that Vice President Joe Biden can’t win the Democratic nomination on his own and should not enter the contest.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told The Huffington Post that Biden should instead say he is “available” to head the 2016 ticket if circumstances warrant it -- that is, if Hillary Clinton implodes.
“If I were advising him, I would not advise him to get in,” said Clyburn, 75, a top member of the House leadership and an influential figure in the Congressional Black Caucus. “In my opinion, he would not do himself any favors by getting in.”
Clyburn has not yet endorsed a candidate for the Democratic nomination. At this juncture, he said, Clinton’s candidacy offers his party’s best chance to hold the White House in 2016.
But besides facing a challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Clinton faces two more immediate hurdles, Clyburn noted.
One is the House committee investigating the Benghazi incident (the panel is headed by Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina); the other an FBI investigation into her email practices.
“Unless Trey has a smoking gun, I think the hearing Thursday is going to be ho-hum,” Clyburn predicted. The FBI is less predictable.
The point, Clyburn said, is that Biden’s destiny is no longer up to Biden.
“I don’t see a path for him that he can create,” Clyburn said in an interview in his district office. “There is only a path that could be created for him. All the impediments -- all the obstacles -- would have to be removed by somebody else.”
If Biden is really serious about running in the Democrats' 2016 nomination race, he’d need Clyburn’s support -- or at least encouragement.
In South Carolina, where the support of black voters is the key to winning the Democratic nomination, Clyburn is the man to see.
The black vote would be especially crucial for a potential Biden run in 2016. As his aides have loyally spun, Biden would not expect to “break out” in Iowa or New Hampshire, but rather gain momentum in South Carolina with his appealing personality, liberal values and his role as the right-hand man of the first black president.
And there is, in theory, room to run that way. Obama beat Hillary Clinton in South Carolina during the 2008 primary. Bill Clinton angered many voters by dismissively comparing Obama’s victory to similar ones by Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988.
Biden spoke to Clyburn recently at the CBC’s annual prayer breakfast. But while Biden stayed for the whole event and glad-handed in candidate fashion, the vice president has never contacted Clyburn to discuss a possible campaign and didn’t attend the main CBC gala that same weekend.
The two men haven’t spoken one word about a campaign, Clyburn said.
“We haven’t talked about it at all,” said Clyburn. “Nobody believes me, but it’s true.”