If Joe Biden runs for president, we can look back at this weekend — and a retro rollout — as the moment his campaign began.
First, the New York Times's Maureen Dowd reported that Biden was considering a challenge to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and that his late son Beau Biden had encouraged him to run:
At the table, Beau told his dad he was worried about him.
My kid’s dying, an anguished Joe Biden thought to himself, and he’s making sure I’m O.K.
"Dad, I know you don’t give a damn about money," Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in.
Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.
It wasn't news — the Wall Street Journal had reported that, with a little less in-the-room drama, more than a month ago. But it was the starting gun.
In an era of YouTube, Twitter, and Snapchat politics, Team Biden went old-school with a weekend leak to a prominent columnist, followed by the inevitably easy confirmation by news reporters and a full Sunday of political talk-show attention. It worked perfectly.
Now politicians, pundits and voters alike are focusing on Clinton's weaknesses and the possibility that the vice president could take advantage of them in the primary. I recently laid out my analysis of why Biden would run. What I've gathered in ongoing conversations with both Clinton and Biden folks is this: No one who is talking knows for sure that he's running, but there's a strong contingent of his allies, most notably his son Hunter Biden, who want him to get in the race. And the Clinton folks have taken the possibility of a Biden campaign seriously for some time.
The challenges for Biden are immense.
For starters, the Draft Biden Super PAC, which just hired former Harry Reid fundraiser Josh Alcorn, raised less than $100,000 in the three months ending June 30. Compare that with the $46 million in "hard" money Clinton raised over the same period of time. She's even gotten money from Biden's former national security adviser and former intergovernmental affairs aide. Nearly half of the Democrats in Congress already have endorsed Clinton, and she's got deep ties to major constituencies — including black and Latino activists — that Biden would have to cut into to win. He's also been included in a variety of polls, none of which show him to be competitive.
But some Democrats say privately that they're more than a little concerned that ethical questions arising from the Clinton Foundation's operations and an investigation into Clinton's handling of her email at State could be devastating in a general election. The sitting vice president isn't a bad fallback option. And, for a little historical perspective, it should be noted that no sitting vice president for a two-term president has ever failed to win a nomination he sought.
I've been told by folks who want Biden to run that Labor Day is probably the deadline for him to make a decision public.
Here are 9 more things to know before you start the day.
1) As Biden deliberates, Clinton hits the airwaves
Clinton's first two ads begin airing in Iowa and New Hampshire Tuesday, and they're something of a reintroduction of the candidate. At a time when most Americans see her as not honest or trustworthy — and before the real mudslinging of the 2016 race gets underway — Clinton's ads are the kind of soft biographical pieces that lesser-known candidates typically use to introduce themselves to voters in a positive light. Here's a snippet of what I wrote about the ads, which you can see here.
The first ad, "Dorothy," focuses on Clinton's late mother, Dorothy Rodham, a figure through whom she has sought to portray herself as a champion of underdogs. In it, Clinton tells of her mother's childhood abandonment, her reliance on the kindness of strangers, and the values he instilled in her family.
"That's why I'm doing this. That's why I've always done this. For all the Dorothys," Clinton says to the camera.
2) It's debate week for the GOP. Grab the popcorn.
It's Fox's show on Thursday night. Here's how the cable network's Kelley Beaucar Vlahos sees the midnight dash for GOP candidates trying to make the top 10 cut to get on the debate stage:
With national poll placement dictating who gets prime-time, the candidates on the margin are doing their best to boost their visibility, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry challenged poll-leader Trump to a pull-up contest after a week of pummeling the billionaire real estate tycoon for his comments on Mexican illegal immigrants and Sen. John McCain.
Meanwhile, Christie declared war on marijuana this week, promising Coloradans they had better enjoy legalized pot today because he will enforce federal laws against it when he is in the White House.
3) Industrious industrialists bring Republican field to donors
Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are trying to build a field operation at the same time the Republican National Committee is doing the same thing. They are demonstrating that fears/hopes of outside groups becoming more powerful than parties in the wake of Citizens United are well-founded.
Patrick O'Connor and Janet Hook of the Wall Street Journal write about the tension, which was evident at a 450-donor Koch conference this weekend that amounted to an audition for several of the top Republican candidates.
The Koch network, for example, sparred with the Republican National Committee over who controls the vast repository of voter data that GOP candidates at every level of the ballot will need to turn out supporters next fall. The two sides recently reached a deal to share information, but the pact gives an entity backed by the Kochs a central role overseeing the party’s data-collection efforts for the foreseeable future. Candidates also rely increasingly on Koch-financed groups to organize their grassroots events. ...
"It is not our goal to supplant the Republican Party, and, in fact, we need the party to be strong," said Marc Short, president of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the central conduit for collecting money that is then steered to other groups backed by the Kochs and their donor allies. But he also noted, "Our mission is about trying to advance a free society, not about trying to advance a party."
The Washington Post has an interesting look at Charles Koch's desire to connect with the American public by finding an injustice, like slavery or segregation, to overcome.
4) Donald Trump, typical politician when he wasn't a politician
It turns out that even The Donald isn't always a straight shooter. He used to praise some of his rivals, including Clinton, Jeb Bush, and Rick Perry. That was when he needed them to get rich. Trump laid bare his new calculus in an incredibly revealing answer to a question about his newly public disdain for them. Here's what he told Jon Karl on ABC's This Week:
It's a very simple answer to that. I was a businessman all my life. I've made a tremendous fortune. I had to deal with politicians and I would contribute to them and I would deal with them and certainly I'm not going to say bad things about people because I needed their support to get projects done. I needed their support for lots of things or I may have needed their support, put it another way.
I mean, you're not going to say horrible things and then go in a year later and say listen, can I have your support for this project or this development or this business. So I say nice about almost everybody and I contributed to people because I was a smart business man. I've built a tremendous company. And I did that based on relationships.
Now I'm no longer a businessman. Now I'm somebody that wants to make our country great. And the tone is too weak. You know, they're telling me and Jeb — I understand what he's saying. He said the tone, the tone. And Hillary used the exact same word, the tone of Trump.
In the same interview, Trump also made clear that he supports waterboarding.
5) The Jeb Bush silver linings playbook, page 4,536
It's usually better to not have a cloud at all than to spend a whole lot of time looking for a silver lining. For Bush, there are a whole lot of silver linings in the rise of Donald Trump. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times reports that they're downright giddy in Bushworld.
Donald J. Trump’s surge in the polls has been met with barely concealed delight by Jeb Bush and his supporters. Mr. Trump’s bombastic ways have simultaneously made it all but impossible for those vying to be the alternative to Mr. Bush to emerge, and easier for Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, to position himself as the serious and thoughtful alternative to a candidate who has upended the early nominating process.
I tend to agree that the overall effect is helpful for Bush in that it helps winnow the competition, but I'd be more concerned than happy about the Trump phenomenon if I were sitting in Bushworld. For one thing, it's also easier for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to triangulate between Bush and Trump — to come off as both serious and appreciative of the message being sent by Trump's supporters. That seems like a pretty ideal spot for success in the GOP primary right now.
6) EPA emits final rule on power plants
Vox's Brad Plumer has the essential guide to the new carbon-reduction rule President Barack Obama is rolling out today. You've got to read his bullet-point assessment of the plan, but here's a little flavor of his explainer:
So how big a deal is this rule? You can look at it in a couple different ways. Optimistically, the program could transform the US electricity sector, finally pushing utilities in every state to take clean energy seriously. The administration is also hoping this policy will give a much-needed jolt to global climate talks, spurring other countries to respond with further actions. Or you could take the pessimistic view: this is a jury-rigged, legally vulnerable plan that's really just a tiny piece of what's needed to slow the pace of global warming. By my calculations, this rule amounts to just a 6 percentage point cut in total US greenhouse-gas emissions from 2013 to 2030.
You can read the plan here.
7) But wait, isn't there a big honking legal problem here?
Why, yes, there is. One major issue is that the carbon-reduction goals include activity "outside the fence" of power plants. It's not entirely clear that EPA has the authority to do that under the Clean Air Act. Even some of the government's own lawyers were skeptical of EPA's power in this area. Given Obama's veto power, Congress probably doesn't have the power to stop him from starting to implement the rule. But the courts are sure to be involved — and soon. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has been pretty pro-business. So stay tuned. And in the meantime, Nathan Richardson at Common Resources has a pretty good rundown of all the possible legal wrangling.
8) DiFi's problem with Latino activists
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's got a bit of an issue because she's pushing back against "sanctuary cities," like her own hometown of San Francisco. The 82-year-old, who is up for reelection in 2018, could be causing herself heartburn with an important Democratic primary constituency, as Politico's Seung Min Kim reports:
The California liberal with a tough-on-crime streak is stirring deep anxiety among immigration activists ever since she said she would write a bill that would force localities to comply with federal immigration requests — prompted by the death of a San Francisco woman, allegedly at the hands of an immigrant here illegally.
Activists, particularly from Feinstein’s home state, have launched protests at her congressional office, demanding that she stop writing legislation they’ve branded as anti-immigrant. More than 50 organizations have written a letter to Feinstein and fellow California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, warning against measures the groups worry would provoke fear within immigrant communities.
9) Choose your own Chuck Schumer Iran deal adventure
New York's senior senator and heir apparent to Democratic leader Harry Reid has been struggling with the conflict between his desire to be a good soldier for Obama and the party on the Iran nuclear deal and his need to keep pro-Israel donors and voters happy. "I haven't made up my mind," Schumer told Politico. But everyone's reading the tea leaves, even though not everyone's reading them the same way. Politico's Manu Raju and Burgess Everett, the best tandem covering the Senate, say Schumer is really leaning against Obama.
People who have spoken with the senior New York senator believe the pressure campaign is having an effect: They say there is a growing sense inside and outside the Capitol that Schumer will vote against the deal when the Senate considers it in September. The bigger question many have now is this: How hard will he push against it?
Schumer is one of about 15 Democratic senators who will decide the fate of President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal in Congress. The president can afford to lose no more than a dozen Democrats on the Senate floor, and as the next Democratic leader, Schumer may be the most critical of them all.
But New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin theorizes that Schumer will end up backing Obama.
Tip O’Neill was wrong. All politics are not local. All politics are personal.
The career of Democrat Schumer is best served by standing with Democrat Obama. That is what he will do. Everything else is detail.
He is the party’s anointed leader in the Senate, and breaking with a Democratic president on a signature, legacy issue would be so huge as to jeopardize the position he has craved and earned. Obama would see the act as unforgivable treason and demand a replacement.
There's little advantage for Schumer in declaring himself early, and there are still a few rounds of Iran deal politics to be played. His best play might just be voting against the deal and then helping arrange other votes to sustain an Obama veto.