CNN: Biden out of Dem debate

According to CNN, Joe Biden will not appear at the first Democratic presidential debate, scheduled for October 13th in Las Vegas. The current Vice President has decided that he can wait even longer before making a decision about entering the presidential race, Jeff Zeleny reports, although maybe Zeleny should dump the “window” analogy:

Vice President Joe Biden has extended his window for deciding whether to jump into the 2016 presidential campaign, several Democrats say, allowing the contest to play out even longer before he answers one of the biggest questions hanging over the race for the White House.

He is not preparing for the first Democratic debate on October 13 in Las Vegas and is not expected to participate, people close to him say, because he feels no pressure to reach a decision by then. He is likely to reveal his plans in the second half of October.

CNN even tried to make it as easy as possible for Biden to join the debate. He didn’t even have to commit to running until the day after the debate:

According to criteria released by CNN, the network that is hosting the debate on Oct. 13, Mr. Biden would have until the next day to file a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. The rules apply to any prospective candidate who is polling higher than 1 percent. …

Although the debate criteria are not explicitly designed to accommodate Mr. Biden, they leave him with leeway to draw out his decision over a run to the middle of next month without missing the opportunity to take part in the first formal gathering of the Democratic candidates.

And yet, Biden still can’t quite pull the trigger on a decision. This might demonstrate his reticence about taking on Hillary Clinton directly rather than wait for her to pull out as a result from scandal. It wouldn’t be a fear of debating; Biden actually does reasonably well in that venue, certainly no worse than Hillary does. It has appeared, though, that Biden has hesitated to jump into the race as long as Hillary still remains in it.

Or it may be that Biden really doesn’t want to run for President. He’s already 72, and he’ll turn 74 two weeks after the November 2016 election. He’s been in Washington since January 1973. Most recently, he lost his son. All of that would combine for most men into a desire to take life more slowly and enjoy the company of family rather than take on the most consuming public-service job in the nation. In this scenario, the only reason to keep the kettle simmering is in case of a Hillary Clinton collapse, just to give the party an escape hatch.

The only explanation that doesn’t make sense is that Biden actually wants to run for President, but thinks the timing’s not right. First off, all of the other contenders will get prime-time slots on TV in Biden’s absence, in a Democratic debate series that will be very limited in this cycle. No serious contender for a major-party nomination would allow that to happen; Republicans are practically recreating the wall scene from World War Z to get onto the main debate stage, and for good reason. Plus, a Democratic candidate who wants to compete in the primaries has to have an organization on the ground already, not just donors lined up to help finance one. Biden’s already behind that 8-ball — by about six pool tables.

NPR notes that time is not on Biden’s side:

And, there’s this mystery — vice presidents are usually the heirs apparent, and Biden has now had seven years to lay the foundation for what would be his third try for the presidency.

But he hasn’t done any of the spadework necessary to raise money or build an organization. …

There’s also a debate in Democratic circles about whether Biden can afford to wait. In three or four months, it will be clearer if Clinton truly is faltering, and, by then, there might be a real groundswell among establishment types in the party for Biden to get in.

But if he wants to make one last run for the White House, and not wait around for a Draft Biden movement among superdelegates to materialize, then he needs to get going now.

“Three or four months from now” would be in January or February — potentially after the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. If Democrats have to change horses in that time frame, it will be an utter disaster, both in terms of public relations and in organization. Forget analogies to the GOP in 2008; this will look more like Democrats in 1968. The window for Democrats is closing much more quickly than that, and it might have already slammed shut for Joe Biden, whether he and his party realize it or not.