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What will Obama do if Biden runs for president?

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at an event attended by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to unveil plans for new area infrastructure projects on July 27, 2015, in New York City.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at an event attended by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to unveil plans for new area infrastructure projects on July 27, 2015, in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Joe Biden is leaning toward a run for president. We've been able to guess that for quite some time. Otherwise, why the tease? But the Wall Street Journal, which has been at the forefront of Biden candidacy coverage, ties it together with sourcing:

Mr. Biden still could opt to sit out the 2016 race, and he is weighing multiple political, financial and family considerations before making a final decision. But conversations about the possibility were a prominent feature of an August stay in South Carolina and his home in Delaware last week, these people said. A surprise weekend trip to Washington to meet with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), a darling of the party’s liberal wing, represented a pivot from potential to likely candidate, one Biden supporter said.

My sources in Biden's orbit have long been split between those who say they don't know what he'll do and those who say they don't know what he'll do but then give a long list of reasons why he should run. That is, the lean has always been in favor.

Biden starts with a huge fundraising deficit and polling numbers that have been consistently between 10 and 15 percent for the past month. It's true that frontrunner Hillary Clinton has seen her lead over Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders diminish in recent weeks among the set of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. But among just Democrats, Clinton was still the favorite of 55 percent, according to a CNN/ORC poll conducted August 13 to 16. She also had majority support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents making $50,000 or less.

So it's an uphill battle for Biden, even with the working-class voters on whom he's staked his appeal as a candidate. That doesn't mean he won't do it. He's run and lost twice before. At this point, it would be a surprise if he didn't make a third bid for the presidency.

One aspect of a Biden candidacy that I find endlessly fascinating is the political box it puts President Barack Obama in. How can he not endorse Biden? Twice he's told the country that Biden is the next-best person to be president. White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Monday that Obama's decision to pick Biden for the vice presidency was the "smartest decision" Obama had made in politics, adding "I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an endorsement in the Democratic primary.”

If Obama thinks there's another Democrat who would make a better president than Biden, then Biden shouldn't be in his job. Even a decision to stay out of the race would be an implicit knock. I strongly suspect Obama would not endorse. But if Biden runs, you can be sure he'll be asked about it a lot. What will Obama do if Biden runs for president?

Here are 9 more things you should know to start the day.

1) Trump redoubles populist tone with call for tax hike

"The hedge fund guys are getting away with murder."

That's what Donald Trump told Face the Nation's John Dickerson Sunday. Trump's proposal: Raise taxes on them and lower taxes on the middle class. Like most of Trump's policy plans so far, this is a broad idea and not specific. But it would be easy for him to crib such a plan from Democrats, many of whom have proposed tightening tax laws to prevent hedge fund managers from using the code to pay lower investment-income rates on their profits rather than regular income tax rates.

2) The man who lives at the center of Clinton storms

Peter Baker of the New York Times reveals the tension between Hillary Clinton's legal interests and her political needs in a profile of David Kendall, the understated superlawyer who is defending her in the probe into the handling of her State Department email:

For more than 20 years, Mr. Kendall has been on the front lines for Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton as their personal lawyer, battling investigators and litigants in the superheated environment where law and politics meet. From Whitewater to impeachment, he has waged legal warfare to keep the Clintons’ political careers on track. So as Mrs. Clinton faces questions about her use of a personal email server as secretary of state, no one is surprised she turned to Mr. Kendall.

The latest furor has put Mr. Kendall under a spotlight in a way that discomfits the tight-lipped and camera-shy lawyer. From Mrs. Clinton’s foes come public questions about why he had the thumb drive containing her email and whether he secured it properly. From Mrs. Clinton’s friends come private questions about whether he has managed the situation effectively and whether he should be more outspoken to protect a Democratic presidential candidate leading in the polls.

3) Will this, too, pass?

Steve Coll, one of the nation's top national security writers, expounds on the investigation-and-paranoia cycle at the heart of the Clinton email controversy and concludes that we can't yet tell what impact it will have on her candidacy. But, he writes, it's not smart to assume that the landscape will look the same tomorrow as it does today:

Hillary Clinton’s vulnerabilities as a Presidential candidate are visible and often remarked upon—conspicuous wealth, a self-protecting style, and the baggage accumulated during three decades in public life. Her strengths are less often acknowledged. For one thing, she is a formidable campaigner—always on message, gaffe-free in debates and town halls, encyclopedic on policy, and comfortable with confrontation and competition. News cycles about faltering front-runners are as much a ritual of early primary seasons as eating pork on a stick at the Iowa State Fair. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is only starting. It will likely be another August before anyone can rate her chances to return to the temporally haunted living quarters she knew as a spouse, to take up rooms of her own.

4) Untangling Scott Walker's position on birthright citizenship

Scott Walker grilling

Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (C) works the grill at the Iowa Pork Producers Pork Tent during the Iowa State Fair on August 17, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.

John Sullivan/Getty Images

You'd think that the 14th Amendment would be a particularly sacrosanct appendage to the Constitution for a party struggling to reach out to nonwhite voters. It ensured former slaves could have full citizenship and that their rights could not be denied by states without due process of law. It's even the area of law that Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and others cite when they say abortion rights are unconstitutional.

But hard-liners in the immigration debate think its grant of citizenship to people born in the US should be abolished. They don't like the fact that babies born to people living in the US without authorization are Americans. That's hamstrung Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who wants to straddle the conservative-moderate line. In a winding set of answers over the past week, Walker has said that he would end birthright citizenship and that he doesn't want to alter or repeal the 14th Amendment. Here's Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post on Walker's latest stand:

Walker said Monday that he supports ending birthright citizenship, then said later in the day that the problem could be addressed by enforcing other laws. On Tuesday, a prominent donor confronted Walker on the topic and walked away satisfied that the candidate wouldn't do away with birthright citizenship. On Friday, Walker said he didn't have a position on the issue. Then Sunday, Walker said he does not want to alter the 14th Amendment.

5) Bush gets help from some Hispanics after "anchor baby" talk

CNN's Ashley Killough reports that Jeb Bush's use of the term "anchor babies" to describe Americans born to unauthorized immigrant parents isn't hurting him with GOP Latinos and Latinas:

Many Hispanic Republicans, however, aren't concerned about Bush losing momentum. In conversations with more than half a dozen Hispanics who have an influential voice in Republican politics, almost all of them agreed that the term is incredibly offensive, but none considered it a setback for the former Florida governor.

"I think he should have said just children or babies, but the fact of the matter is, I think he pushed back hard on the fact that it's not about rhetoric, it's about policy," said Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

Bush has asked whether there's a better term to use. The obvious answer: Americans. But given that he's married to a Hispanic woman, Bush surely has more latitude than some of his rivals to use harsh rhetoric without effectively being labeled insensitive to the Latino community.

6) Bomb Iran? Easier under nuke deal, administration argues.

That's what Michael Crowley of Politico is reporting. It's also a step further than the assertion that the deal would do nothing to prevent the US or Israel from using military force against Iran in the event that it violates the agreement. Here's Crowley:

In meetings on Capitol Hill and with influential policy analysts, administration officials argue that inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities under the deal will reveal important details that can be used for better targeting should the U.S. decide to attack Iran.

7) Reid backs nuke deal

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Sunday that he'll support the agreement on the floor. That's an important endorsement for the White House, particularly after Reid's presumed successor in the Democratic leadership, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, came out against the deal.

8) McConnell bails out Rand Paul, allowing him to run for reelection

If Rand Paul ever wonders what happened to all the support he used to get from anti-Washington populists and libertarians — and it's clear he does — he should look no further than his fight to change Kentucky election rules so that he doesn't have to give up his Senate seat for his quixotic presidential bid. The people who are angry about a rigged political game didn't leave Paul, he left them. And on Saturday, he did it with an inside straight dealt by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Washington and Kentucky.

The basic problem confronting Paul is a Kentucky state law that tries to prevent candidates from running for more than one office at the same time. The workaround is a special presidential preference election. But that's costly, and, though Paul had promised to put up some money for it, members of the state Republican Party committee didn't trust him to follow through until two top McConnell allies, former Republican National Committee Chair Mike Duncan and Terry Carmack, who is McConnell's state director, vouched for Paul Saturday. Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader has the details:

Duncan introduced an amendment that said if Paul transfers the $250,000 by Sept. 18, then the caucus is a go. If not, the party will revert automatically to holding its presidential preference contest on the traditional primary election date.

Carmack followed that up by standing, during the open debate portion of Saturday's proceedings, to remind committee members that McConnell has endorsed Paul's presidential campaign and the move toward a caucus, "especially now that we have a funding mechanism in place." ...

Duncan's amendment, and Carmack's timely reminder, saved the caucus — and Paul — from untold embarrassment and countless political obituaries. Paul needed 98 votes. He got 111.

9) Jimmy Carter keeps appointment with Sunday School class

Jimmy Carter discusses his brain cancer

Former President Jimmy Carter discusses his cancer diagnosis during a press conference at the Carter Center on August 20, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Carter announced last week that he has brain cancer. That didn't stop him from teaching Sunday School, as he has for years, at Marantha Baptist Church in Plains. Joe Kovac Jr. of the Macon Telegraph has some color on an event that drew several hundred well-wishers to Carter's neck of the woods:

The church he joined in 1981 was packed. The parking lot was jammed. There was a tour bus. Cars filled the paved lot and the grass beneath the pecan trees.

"He always comes back," said June Ewing, 78, who lives in nearby Americus and is a frequent visitor at the church.

Yes, here Carter was, 39 days shy of his 91st birthday, in a gray suit coat, a blue dress shirt unbuttoned at the neck, the 39th president of the United States, about to teach Sunday School the way he always has.


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