Steve Kornacki PONDERS the possibility that the current veep might try to become the oldest person ever to take the oath of office as president:
In a column this week, Ezra Klein hailed Joe Biden’s “heavyweight” credentials as a campaigner, dealmaker and talent evaluator, and touted him as a 2016 White House contender.
In theory, there should be nothing noteworthy about that last part. Biden is a sitting vice president in a second-term administration; he should be a natural prospect to run for the top job in the next election – something, he’s made clear, that he’s interested in doing. Of the three most recent two-term veeps, two – George H.W. Bush and Al Gore – used the office to clear relatively easy paths to presidential nominations, while the third – Dick Cheney – never seriously toyed with running on his own.
And, as Klein’s piece demonstrates, Biden’s credentials are even stronger when you consider the unusually consequential role he’s played in the Obama White House. He’s now the point-man on a major initiative on gun violence, and just before that was deputized to secure a last-minute fiscal cliff deal with Mitch McConnell. In fact, he’s been a key player in all of the White House’s various fiscal battles with the GOP, and let’s not forget the time he forced his boss’son gay marriage. Biden hasn’t claimed the singular power that Cheney enjoyed in George W. Bush’s first term (and here’s hoping no vice president ever does again), but beyond that it’s hard to think of a No. 2 who’s loomed as large in an administration as he has.
So why do we keep having to remind ourselves to include him in the ‘16 mix? There are two obvious reasons. The first is age: Biden turned 70 last month, meaning that if he runs in the next election, he’ll be 73 during the campaign and 74 on his inauguration – meaning he’d be the oldest person ever to be sworn in as president. (Ronald Reagan didn’t turn 74 until a few weeks after his second inaugural.)
The other reason Biden is overlooked is more serious: Hillary. The outgoing secretary of state, if she chooses to run, has the potential to be a primary season front-runner like we’ve never before seen. Yes, I know, we heard the same thing in the run-up to 2008, and look how that turned out. But Clinton’s two major weaknesses in that race – her vote for the Iraq War that her party base vehemently opposed and claims that she was too polarizing and would jeopardize the party’s general election prospects – have vanished.
Realistically, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Biden – or almost anyone else, except perhaps an ambitious up-and-comer looking for name recognition – runs against Clinton. If she runs.
And in light of her recent medical scare, that’s an if that seems to be getting bigger. Clinton has insisted repeatedly that she has no plans to run in ’16 and that she just wants to take some serious time off after leaving the State Department. Maybe her break will fill her with energy for another national campaign. It could also lead her to decide: I’m 66 years old, I still have some good years left, and I’ve proven all I need to prove in public life – time to try something else.