Was it just another case of Joe being Joe, or, as some people are hinting, a sign that the Vice President was staking out the liberal high ground to the left of Hillary? At issue is a speech by the Veep to a private audience in South Carolina in which he was said to take a shot at the Clintons over the subject of income inequality. Well, if it was it was fairly subtle.

Vice President Joe Biden gave a closed-door speech Friday to South Carolina Democrats that included a shot at the Clintons.

Biden, a potential 2016 candidate, said the unraveling of middle-class financial security began in “the later years of the Clinton administration,” not under George W. Bush, CNN reported Saturday.

Speaking for more than thirty minutes at the VIP Capital City Club event in Columbia, S.C., he addressed the prominant group of attendees in the key presidential primary state.

In recent months, the vice president has focused on revving up liberals on issues of income inequality, as he prepares for a possible run against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though many Democrats don’t think he’d run against her.

I suppose it’s always more fun to examine every utterance of any politico through the prism of the next presidential election. Lot’s of us make our living off such minutia and, to be honest, it serves as potential link bait if you can invoke Hillary’s name. But from the reports of what Biden actually said, there’s really a much more obvious – if boring – explanation for this. Part of Biden’s job is to act as an emissary not only for Barack Obama, but for his party, and this is a mid-term election year. Talking about income inequality, how long it’s been around, and how awful all of those nasty rich people are is the bread and butter of revving up the liberal base. It’s not all that different from when Biden recently made provocative statements about illegal aliens already being citizens. Sure, you could describe that as staking out the high ground to the left if you like. But it’s also what the base wants to hear, and if you want to get their butts up off the couch in November and down to the polls, this is what you feed them.

I’m not saying Biden wouldn’t like to be President. He’s certainly taken enough shots at the job and hasn’t exactly been coy about his aspirations. But for all of his goofy antics, Biden isn’t a novice at politics, and he can read a poll as well as the next person. He’ll continue to lay the groundwork for a run on the off chance that Hillary decides to cash in her chips and go home, but if she does decide to pull the trigger I don’t expect Joe Biden to make more than a token push to knock her off. It’s still Hillary’s show on the Democrats’ side, and she’s the only one who gets to say if and when the curtain comes down.