As Vice President Joe Biden has begun querying Democrats on his prospects in states that hold early contests for the party's presidential nomination, one of his closest advisers is putting former staffers on notice that their services might be needed.
“I am confident that the Vice President is aware of the practical demands of making a final decision soon,” Ted Kaufman, who served as Biden's chief of staff and, briefly, as his successor in the U.S. Senate, wrote in an e-mail to “Biden alumni” that concluded: “If he decides to run, we will need each and every one of you—yesterday!”
Kaufman's missive, first reported by the Associated Press, included a paragraph that sounded unmistakably like a political engine gunning. Any campaign his old boss runs will be “an optimistic campaign. A campaign from the heart,” Kaufman promised. “And I think it's fair to say, knowing him as we all do, that it won't be a scripted affair—after all, it's Joe.” Kaufman also offered a rationale for a Biden candidacy: “He believes we must win this election. Everything he and the President have worked for—and care about—is at stake.”
Kaufman's e-mail surfaced on the same day as news that the vice president has begun reaching out to Democrats outside his inner circle to gather opinions about a potential run. Two people familiar with the discussions said that those calls are no guarantee Biden will run, but that they indicate that he's not cowed by Hillary Clinton's strong performance in the first Democratic primary debate earlier this week.
The outreach, while focused on assessing his prospects in early primary and caucus states, goes beyond Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations have been closely held.
In more than a dozen calls, Biden has been seeking out political operatives with detailed knowledge of the race and about organizing in individual states.
Biden already was making calls prior to the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday night, but his engagement has increased since then, the people said.
In the debate, which Biden watched from home, Clinton gave a performance that was widely regarded as weakening Biden's rationale for jumping into the race as an alternative to the former secretary of state. At the same time, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders reinforced his appeal to the liberal base, which has responded with donations.
Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, said after the debate that time is running out for Biden.
“They will have a healthy, substantive debate if he decides to get in but as I said last night, I think it’s time for him to make that decision,” Podesta said on MSNBC Wednesday.
Biden has declined to answer questions about whether he'll run and when he will decide. At a transportation roundtable at the White House on Wednesday, he said only that he was “proud” of his fellow Democrats for their debate performances.
Outside a meeting with the Korean President Park Geun Hye Thursday at his residence, Biden joked in response to shouted questions about whether he would declare himself a candidate, “I'll tell you in Korean.” Eventually he shut down queries by saying, “I'm here to greet President Park; I'll talk to you all about that later.”