Washington Merry-Go-Round

Biden in 2016?

          WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Founded by Drew Pearson 1932

Biden in 2016?

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – It was after eleven in the evening on New Year’s Day when President Obama stepped into the White House briefing room with Vice President Joe Biden at his side to thank all the parties involved, and to praise his vice president for brokering the tax package that saved the country from the fiscal cliff. It was a good deal from Obama’s perspective, and a lot of the credit goes to Biden.

First elected to the Senate at age 29, Biden took office at age 30, the minimum age required for the job in the Constitution, and he had served as Delaware’s senator for 35 years when Obama chose him for vice president. The wisdom of that choice became abundantly clear during the faltering fiscal cliff negotiations when Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Biden asking, “Does anybody down there know how to make a deal?”

After checking first with Obama, Biden threw himself into the fray, making offers and counter-offers to McConnell, cobbling together a workable compromise and then selling it to nervous Democrats wary that the White House was giving away too much in search of a bipartisan consensus. Like Ted Kennedy before him, Biden is a Democrat that other Democrats trust to make compromises they can live with.

When Biden cast his vote for the Obama-Biden ticket in his home state of Delaware on November 6, reporters wanted to know if he felt nostalgic, and if this was the last time he would vote for himself. “No, I don’t think so,” he replied with a smile. Sure, sure, the pundits said, indulging good ole Joe in what looked to most like fantasy, that he would be Obama’s natural heir and contend for the presidency in 2016.

Biden turned 70 in November, and for a Democratic coalition built around the 51-year-old Obama, the vice president isn’t the first person that comes to mind to pick up the Obama mantle. The drumbeat has been for Hillary Clinton, the most admired woman in the world for each of the last 11 years, and the presumed frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination should she choose to run. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has said that he can’t think of anyone in either party who could challenge Hillary.

Granted it’s way too early to be handicapping the 2016 presidential race, but at this moment in time with Clinton looking physically vulnerable and Biden looking like the master legislator, the scales have evened out somewhat. After four grueling years as secretary of state, Clinton may decide she likes private life where, like her husband, the former president, she can make a huge impact on issues she cares about without getting the day-to-day scrutiny from the media and political opponents.

Biden, who has had health issues in the past, is fully recovered from the brain aneurysm he suffered in 1988. He’s energetic and gregarious and seems to enjoy politics in the same way that Bill Clinton does, drawing energy from the campaign trail. He loves to talk, almost too much, and he’s known for his gaffes, but when it comes down to doing business on Capitol Hill, he knows what to do and how to do it.

Presidents are expected to do all sorts of things and working with Congress is high on the list. The friendships Biden made during his more than three decades in the Senate are paying off now, and it’s fair to ask how much more a president could accomplish legislatively if he or she had Biden’s experience and relationships. Biden’s presidential aspirations suddenly don’t seem as farfetched as they once did. And as Obama fades into lame-duck status, Biden could be the man to watch.

© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

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