Yes, he's in it.

Photographer: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Biden's Ever-Inflating Trial Balloon

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Remember when Joe Biden was supposedly going to have a decision about a presidential campaign by the end of summer?

Turns out someone should have asked him if he meant Northern or Southern hemisphere. The latest, Politico reports, is that the Biden camp now says a decision could come in October or November, or maybe not until March or later.

This only confirms what some of us have been saying all along. He isn't waiting to decide. He's running. Not to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. She wrapped that up some time ago. He's running for Clinton's understudy -- as the candidate who will go on at the last minute, if necessary, if she's unable to continue for any reason.

Granted, it isn't entirely clear if this is what Biden is thinking. But that is what's happening. 

Even when there's a strong early front-runner in the race for a party's presidential nomination, at least one other candidate is usually running a solid campaign -- someone who would be broadly acceptable if something surprising happened. Recall, for example, that John McCain (and earlier in the cycle, Lamar Alexander and others) were in it on the Republican side, and Bill Bradley on the Democratic side, when George W. Bush and Al Gore were dominating in 1999. So no one normally has to worry about what would happen if the nominee suddenly dropped out.

But this time, Clinton was so strong, so early, that almost none of the potential viable nominees reached the announcement stage. If she had to drop out now, or after Iowa and New Hampshire, or for that matter after she locks up a majority of the delegates, there would be no one obvious to replace her.

Joe Biden is trying to change that, by floating his permanently inflated trial balloon.

Sure, he could always change course. But until and unless he does, expect to see him, in some way or another, up to the Democratic convention -- and even beyond, just in case.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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