"Run, Joe, run," is the cry Vice President Joe Biden is hearing more often as he attends public events. Few politicians are as popular as Biden is today. But, should he announce he is running for president, he will become a target for Republicans.
Biden, 72 years old, has had a long a storied career in Washington. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, at the age of 30, and he was subsequently overwhelmingly reelected six times by the voters of Delaware. He served in a number of important positions while in the Senate, including Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. His more than forty year career in elected office qualifies him to be president.
Biden's life has been filled with tragedy. Shortly after first being elected to the Senate, Biden's wife and daughter were killed in a car accident. His sons Beau and Hunter survived, although they were badly injured. He considered resigning to care for his sons, but was persuaded not to by Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield. In his memoir, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, he wrote that he owed it to his late wife, who had worked hard to get him elected, to continue. So he commuted daily between Capitol Hill and Delaware, a 90-minute train ride, to care for his sons. Yet, following the accident, Biden told NPR in 2007 he had difficulty at first focusing on work.
Biden married Jill Biden five years after the accident, and, in the Senate, found himself on the front lines of many historic events, including the Vietnam War, Watergate, the collapse of the Soviet Union, America's two wars with Iraq, and the election of President Barack Obama. In 1988, he overcame another personal tragedy, life threatening cranial aneurysms.
Biden was among the least wealthy members of the Senate, and he is proud to say he has never forgotten his modest upbringing. Loquacious and garrulous, Biden is likeable and authentic. Yet he has been prone to gaffes over his career. When President Obama was preparing to sign the Affordable Care Act an excited Biden told the president, "This is a big F...ing deal," loud enough for microphones to capture it.
But Biden was struck by tragedy again when his son, Beau, died of brain cancer this past May. Biden was devastated, and he talked about it in a heartfelt interview with Stephen Colbert on CBS last week. The impact of his son's death has weighed heavily on his decision to run for president, as he explained to Colbert. "I don't think any man or woman should run for president unless, number one, they know exactly why they would want to be president and, number two, they can look at folks out there and say, 'I promise you, you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy, and my passion to do this.'" He then paused, and said, "And I'd be lying if I said that I knew I was there."
With the Democrat frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, mired in controversies about her use of a private email server and her handling of Benghazi, more party voices are being raised in support of Biden entering the race. Even some Republicans have said they would like him to run, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who told CNN, "I would love to see Joe get in the race."
Biden is struggling with the decision at a time when his popularity is growing, according to recent polls. Beyond the burden of his son's death, he knows as an announced presidential candidate he will come under heavy attack from Republicans. On the Senate Judiciary Committee Biden presided over two contentious Supreme Court nominations, Justice Clarence Thomas and the Robert Bork, who conservatives believe was treated unfairly in his failed attempt to get appointed. Biden has failed twice to be elected president, in 1988 and 2007. Biden's missteps include plagiarism, once in law school and another in 1988, which helped cost him his bid for the White House. When Donald Trump was asked by a conservative talk show host last week how he'd do against Biden, he responded, "I think I'd matchup great. I'm a job producer. I've had a great record, I haven't been involved in plagiarism. I think I would match up very well against him."
Another concern for Biden would be how to campaign against Hillary Clinton. In 2008, candidate Obama contrasted his opposition to the 2003 war in Iraq with Clinton's Senate vote to authorize the war. Biden also voted to authorize the war, although he now says he made a mistake. And Biden's candidacy will also be viewed as a continuation of the Obama presidency, which has continually come under furious attack from Republicans as divisive and overreaching. Without question, Vice President Joe Biden's current popularity will take a hit should he decide to run for president.
In August, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote of a conversation Beau Biden, who was near death, had with his father urging him to run. He knew his father always wanted to be president. Even with all of the challenges that come with such a decision, Vice President Biden has faced more daunting obstacles many times before in his life. Stay tuned.