Vice President Joe Biden has made little secret of his interest in a 2016 presidential run. And shortly after he's sworn in for a second term as President Barack Obama's understudy, he'll take a concrete step toward seeking the Democratic presidential nomination himself in three years.
On Jan. 22, Biden and wife Jill will attend the Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington - rich with party "superdelegates" that could decide the 2016 nomination. An invitation to DNC members by DNC Secretary Alice Germond, obtained by Politix, notes that "On behalf of our Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz we are pleased to announce that Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will be joining us for a celebratory reception immediately following the DNC General Session."
Neither Biden nor President Barack Obama attended the annual DNC event after taking office in January 2009. But Biden's presence this time gives him an early jump on the 2016 contest.
That's because DNC members are automatic superdelegates to the 2016 Democratic convention. Unlike most convention delegates, the superdelegates are not selected based on the party primaries and caucuses. Instead, most of the superdelegates are seated automatically, based solely on their status as current or former party leaders and elected officials. Others are chosen during the primary season.
Superdelegates have played crucial roles in previous Democratic nomination fights. In the 1984 election, the major contenders for the presidential nomination were Sen. Gary Hart (CO) and former Vice President Walter Mondale. Each won some primaries and caucuses. Mondale was only slightly ahead of Hart in the total number of votes cast but won the support of almost all superdelegates and became the nominee.
In 2008, freshman Sen. Barack Obama used a superdelegate strategy to beat former then-senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Throughout most of the primary season Obama clung to only a narrow lead from delegates selected in primaries and caucuses. It seemed superdelegates would play a decisive role in selecting the nominee. That turned out to be a moot point since Obama was able to wrap up the Democratic nomination before the party convention.
Biden has twice sought the Democratic presidential nomination and come up short. He quit the 1988 race before primary voting began, in a plagiarism scandal. In 2008 he dropped out after finishing the Iowa Caucuses in the low single digits.
But Biden hasn't been shy about his 2016 ambitions. After casting his ballot on Election Day 2012, Biden was asked if this was going to be the last time he would vote for himself. He briefly replied, "No, I don't think so." Still, Biden will be 73 by the time the 2016 election season is underway, which may make it difficult to campaign against younger competitors.
And Biden's 2016 calculus of course has to factor in the future political ambitions of Hillary Clinton, the outgoing secretary of state. Clinton has said repeatedly that she doesn't plan a 2016 bid, though she hasn't issued a Shermanesque denial. If she declines to run other potential Democratic presidential candidates include Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Martin O'Malley of Maryland, among others.