It looks like Joe Biden has made a decision, as he’s dropping encouraging hints all over the place these days. Tuesday Biden spoke to the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) convention In Washington and among the “Run, Joe, Run” outbursts was a very enthusiastic audience. He asked them to hold on to that enthusiasm for a bit longer while implying that yes, he’s in.
Looking out over a crowd of firefighters chanting, “Run, Joe, run,” former Vice President Joe Biden urged patience. “Save it a little longer; I may need it in a few weeks,” he said, adding, “Be careful what you wish for.”
It was a rambling speech and Biden often repeated himself. Is he rusty or is he just going through the motions? He complained about the pettiness and meanness of politics yet doesn’t seem to remember his own role in it. Just last year he said if he was a high-school student he’d take President Trump “behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.” Democrats and their base, the media, just laughed it off. The media’s reaction to Trump’s 2016 campaign rally rhetoric that sometimes included similar remarks like punching a heckler was reported as unacceptable behavior. Biden also once told an African-American audience that Republicans wanted to put them back in chains.
Before Biden took off for a little holiday in St. Croix with the wife last week he met with elected officials in Delaware. One of them was Senator Chris Coons, who thinks Biden has decided to run.
“He was leaning toward it,” said Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who, along with the two other members of Mr. Biden’s home-state congressional delegation, had lunch with the former vice president at his office at the foot of Capitol Hill. “Everything necessary to lay the groundwork for a successful campaign is underway.”
Mr. Coons said Mr. Biden used the lunch to ask the lawmakers detailed questions “on a wide range of topics,” including the political dynamics in various states, the mood in the Senate caucus and how to organize robust digital, grass-roots and fund-raising efforts.
He spoke to the firefighters as a standard Democrat wooing union members with support for collective bargaining and overtime pay issues, then launched into generic campaign talking points. The audience was mixed politically (not all firefighters are Democrats) so he gave lip service to the “drift to the left” of today’s Democratic Party. Also, the IAFF is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, which came out strongly against the Green New Deal.
He also veered far from discussing issues of overtime and collective bargaining, sounding out themes about American renewal that could form the basis of a bid for the Democratic nomination.
“In America, everybody gets a shot,” Mr. Biden said. “That’s what the next president of the United States needs to understand, and that’s what I don’t think this current president understands at all.”
He scorned President Trump’s new budget proposal, unveiled on Monday, which he said would cut Medicare and Medicaid “because of a tax cut for the super-wealthy that created a deficit of $1.9 trillion and now they got to go make somebody pay for it.”
Speaking to a union with a politically mixed membership, Mr. Biden also expressed unease with his own party’s drift to the left and the deep polarization gripping the country.
Biden is at the top of the polls even though he hasn’t announced his candidacy. He’s got name recognition and a reputation as a moderate, which sets him apart from most of the announced candidates. He can keep everyone dangling a bit longer. At some point, though, it will get tiresome and primary voters may begin to give the other candidates a second look. Does Biden really have the fire in the belly and the physical stamina to endure a brutal presidential campaign? Can he appeal to Democratic primary voters who demand a far-left candidate while appeasing more moderate voters without looking as phony as Hillary? Time will tell. Meanwhile, it looks like the firefighters are ready to endorse him.