Biden: Not Quite Yet

Oct. 21, 2015 — Twitter has been chirping recently with “insider” tweets that Vice President Joe Biden had decided to enter the 2016 presidential campaign. The Washington Post even ran a draft article quoting unnamed sources denoted with a notation of “XXX” that Biden had made his final decision. It wasn’t long before the editors quickly withdrew the piece, claiming it had been inadvertently placed. Hours later it was determined that the VP is not yet launching his official presidential effort.

The decision is a tough one because Biden is clearly not in a position to simply announce for president and expect everyone to flock to him. In fact, he has several major obstacles to overcome to win the nomination and it is doubtful that he can.

First, all of the early national polling suggests his entrance in the race would only earn him support in the high teens to low 20s, slightly trailing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), and about 20-plus points behind front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The Monmouth University poll results, for example, released only Monday and fielded after the first Democratic presidential debate (Oct. 15-18; 1,012 adults, 340 self-identified Democrats or Democratic Party leaners), is typical of the numbers we see.

Though this sampling universe again has an unacceptably low number of participants (in this case the Democratic cell sample of 340 individuals nationwide), their data is consistent with other similarly available statistics. These results find the former Secretary of State leading the field with 48 percent, Sen. Sanders second with 21 percent, and the vice president finishing third, posting only 17 percent support. Such is not an enviable starting point.

Secondly, logistics are difficult. Though he would not be starting from scratch in assembling a presidential campaign staff and fundraising organization, he’s uncomfortably close to ground zero. The first votes cast in the Iowa Caucus will be recorded on Feb. 1, just over three months from now. After that, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada all vote during the month of February.

Within the March 1-15 period, no less than an additional 26 states will hold nominating events. Funding and supporting an organization to conduct ground operations on an exhaustive map in such a short period of time is no easy feat, especially against two opponents who have been working the system for months.

Third, not only will his campaign be forced to create a presence in more than half the country virtually overnight, Biden will have to navigate the morass of procedures, state laws, and Democratic Party rules that are different in every place, just to secure ballot position in 57 nominating entities (the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the four territories – American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas Islands, US Virgin Islands – and a special voting category entitled “Democrats Abroad”). This process is much more difficult than it even sounds, requiring significant resources and even more precious time.

Additionally, the money to fund his internal operations, raised in no more than $2,700 increments, will not magically appear in his campaign mailbox. A major organization will have to be developed, in virtually record time, to close the financial gap between the Clinton campaign that is already closing in on $100 million raised, and Sen. Sanders who collected $26 million in just the last quarter.

Though it is likely that Super PACs will be quickly started to support him, neither the vice president nor his campaign staff can have any direct control over those funds. Furthermore, the direct campaign expenses outlined above cannot be covered through a Super PAC.

The vice president entering the race would certainly be a major media event, and the national press corps wants to see him in the race, but whether or not he actually becomes a candidate is still a complicated political question yet to be answered.

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