Vice President Joseph R. Biden uttered nary a word about seeking the Democratic nomination for president during a Tuesday morning forum, but he trumpeted several key parts of his resume that could set him apart from the field.
Biden was on stage for about an hour at George Washington University, less than one mile from the Oval Office. A capacity crowd filled a GWU auditorium in anticipation for what one audience member was heard describing as “the big announcement.”
But other than one reference to Iowa — Biden said he was worried people would think he was running when Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recently visited Iowa — the vice president kept his thinking about a third presidential bid to himself. He noted that he spent “four of five days” with Xi during his U.S. visit.
Biden did, however, tout several parts of his long Washington resume that could boost another White House bid — and set him apart from the rest of the Democratic field, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
For one, the 47th U.S. vice president played up his “close personal relationships” with world leaders. He did make a passing — though veiled — reference to Clinton, saying the Obama administration has had “two great secretaries of State.”
But Biden also described his relationships with many global leaders as “long,” noting he first met some of them decades ago while he was a senator. Notably, he pointed to leaders in Eastern and Central Europe — where once-and-again U.S. foe Russia is flexing its muscles — and China, the Asian giant widely considered as America’s top economic and military rival.
The vice president noted for the audience that he sometimes is tapped by President Barack Obama to travel around the globe “to speak to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin” and other world leaders.
Those leaders listen to him, Biden said, “because [they know] I speak for the president.”
“There’s nothing missing between the lip and the cup,” Biden quipped, describing his role within the Obama administration and relationship with Obama.
What’s more, Biden also touted his proximity to presidential decision-making, saying he demanded and has maintained the status of being the last adviser in the room with Obama on major decisions.
The former Delaware senator also pointed out that he has led 18 Cabinet meetings as vice president, typically about matters spanning multiple federal departments on which Obama granted him full authority.
During one, the potential 2016 candidate said, a Cabinet secretary advised meeting without Obama was unwise. According to Biden, he shot back: “How about you do what I tell you, or go talk to the president?”
Biden also provided a window into how he might select a vice president, should he win a possible three-way brawl with Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.
The main reason his relationship with Obama has remained strong, he said, is because “we’re simpatico” on major policy issues. He acknowledged small differences as candidates with Obama during the 2008 election cycle, but added the duo never disagreed on “substantive issues.”
Reminding the audience he initially turned down Obama’s offer of the vice presidency, Biden said it is important for a VP candidate to decide and make clear to his or her potential boss “what you want to do.”
His appearance at a GWU-University of Minnesota forum examining Walter Mondale’s vice presidential tenure came amid speculation that he is nearing a decision about running.
A new poll might give him pause.
It is more likely Democratic primary voters (38 percent) would prefer Biden not jump into the race for the party’s presidential nomination than want him to (30 percent), according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Another 31 percent had no opinion. Should Biden jump into the race, he is expected to siphon support — voters and campaign funds — from Clinton, opening a door for a three-way fight for the nomination that could seriously include Sanders.
Whether or not Biden runs, Mondale said part of his decades-long legacy of public service will be helping to “executivize” the vice presidency, a truly wonky term for ensuring future VPs have a strong role in future administrations’ decision-making.
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