WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden is thanking Democratic supporters in the afterglow of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, dropping plenty of hints that he may try to cement Obama’s legacy with his own presidential campaign in 2016.
Biden packed his schedule with events and receptions attended by party insiders surrounding Obama’s inauguration, giving him a chance to thank prominent lawmakers and donors and plant the seeds for a future bid. It comes on the heels of the vice president’s prominent role in brokering a compromise on the “fiscal cliff” standoff with Congress and developing gun-control legislation after December’s deadly elementary school shooting in Connecticut.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton remains the heavy favorite of the Democratic party faithful, but Biden is making clear that he has no intention of closing any doors that could lead to the White House — especially if Clinton decides not to run.
As vice president, Biden can stay in the spotlight, and he is no stranger to the rigors of a presidential campaign after two unsuccessful bids, in 1988 and 2008. The former Delaware senator has racked up a long list of domestic and foreign policy achievements, even as his occasional off-script moments have become fodder for Republican critics.
“There’s a whole lot of reasons why I wouldn’t run,” Biden, who will be nearly 74 on Election Day in 2016, told CNN before the inauguration. “I don’t have to make that decision for a while. In the meantime, there’s one thing I know I have to do, no matter what I do. I have to help this president move this country to the next stage.”
Yet with his high-profile perch, Biden is doing nothing to tamp down the speculation.
Biden’s private swearing-in ceremony Sunday was attended by recently elected New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, someone who would be a potent ally in the state’s first-in-the-nation primary. Attendees at a Sunday afternoon reception at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory said they noticed a lot of party activists from early voting states like New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.
During the weekend, Biden attended several balls with Democrats who would energize a presidential campaign. At the Iowa State Society Inaugural Ball, Biden told partygoers he was “proud to be president of the United States,” prompting cheers. He quickly corrected himself, saying he was “proud to be vice president of the United States, but I am prouder to be … President Barack Obama’s vice president.” Laughing it off, he said, “There’s goes that.”
At a ball celebrating Latino voters, Biden said the Hispanic community was “a decisive factor” in the election. “This is your moment,” Biden said. “America owes you.” Some party stalwarts said it was noteworthy that Biden asked Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice, to administer the oath of office.