Tougher road for Biden if he waits to decide on 2016

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — For Vice President Joe Biden, the 2016 clock is ticking particularly loudly.

Biden is crisscrossing the country but showing little sense of urgency to make a quick decision on whether to run for president. Yet the political calendar, with its maze of looming deadlines, presents a reality no candidate can avoid: the longer a candidate waits, the harder it is to win.

The 2016 presidential campaign is barreling forward with or without Biden, giving a key advantage to declared candidates — such as former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton — whose campaigns are hard at work completing the tedious task of qualifying for the ballot. Even the Democrats who are pining for Biden to enter the race have questioned publicly whether it's too late for him to mount a viable campaign.

None of those considerations were on display on Thursday as Biden plunged into two jam-packed days of public appearances in New York focused on issues that have been central to Biden's political career for decades. In fact, the most vivid reminder of the presidential contest came as Biden stepped off of Air Force Two at LaGuardia Airport and was driven past GOP front-runner Donald Trump personal plane, parked nearby on the tarmac.

For Democrats seeking the White House, the first filing deadlines loom at the beginning of November. New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary, has set its cutoff date as Nov. 20, with Florida following soon after. By New Year's Day, more than 15 states will be off limits to candidates who haven't taken the necessary steps to get on the ballot.

Biden once set an end-of-summer deadline for his own decision, but that outlook was reshuffled after his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in late May. In early August, Biden let it be known that he was actively considering a run. The intense interest and speculation stirred up by that disclosure has essentially frozen the Democratic primary campaign in place, as Clinton and the other candidates wait to see whether they'll face another formidable contender.

Any announcement of a decision will now likely slip into late September or early October — possibly even later, according to several Biden aides, who weren't authorized to discuss the timeline publicly and requested anonymity. For his part, Biden has said the decision comes down to whether he and his family determine they have the emotional energy to run.

"There's no way to put a timetable on that," Biden said last week.

In the meantime, the will-he-or-won't-he parlor game is swirling around the political world and Biden, whose routine trips to conduct vice presidential business have taken on the tinge of campaign stops.

At a rowdy rally for raising New York's minimum wage, hundreds of union types cheered as Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced Biden by saying he always brings good news to the state.

"He's just like a New York Santa Claus," Cuomo said. Although an avowed Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter, Cuomo was quick with praise for Biden's middle-class bona fides. "He is all about this country's working families. He understands their needs intellectually, and he feels their plight emotionally."

Biden started his New York swing by touring a New York crime lab with actress Mariska Hargitay from "Law and Order: SVU," who joined Biden in touting increased funding to process rape kits. He planned to finish the day raising money for Senate Democrats and taping a highly anticipated appearance on "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert. The comedian kicked off his show earlier in the week with GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

While declared candidates like Bush and Clinton have had staffers working for months to get them on the ballot, Biden would have to play catch-up in a matter of weeks. Over the summer, Biden's political advisers started researching filing deadlines and other logistical requirements, aides said, but can't start actively organizing unless and until he takes formal steps to enter the race.

The process to qualify varies greatly from state to state, creating a maze of requirements that campaigns must meet: petitions to be collected, signatures to be counted and notifications made to political parties, elections boards and state agencies. Caucus states like Iowa generally require far less legwork. Some states require a specific number of petition signatures from each congressional district. In Virginia, the people who collect the signatures must be Virginia residents.

Don't make the ballot in time? You lose the chance to win any of those state's delegates. A Brookings Institution analysis this week found that a candidate who misses the filing deadlines through January could forfeit as many as 2,232 delegates, a current estimate of the number needed to win the nomination.


Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at