How Hillary boxed out Biden

Clinton made quiet moves that sent Biden a clear message: Don’t run.

Last August, just after the first Biden trial balloon was floated in a column by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, Clinton cut short her Hamptons vacation to make an appearance in Ankeny, Iowa, with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack by her side. Her words there were that Biden “has to do what he has to do, I’m going to continue with my campaign.” But her actions sent a loud and clear message to Biden: I’m going to be here fighting on the ground, even if it means interrupting my vacation, campaigning with the support of members of the Obama administration, not giving you an inch.

Instead of launching public attacks, the Clinton campaign sought to shore up support from heavy hitting unions like the National Education Association. It rolled out endorsements from Obama administration officials Vilsack and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. It quickly pushed out a list of 50 African-American mayors supporting Clinton’s bid (even though at least three people on the list later said they had not yet actually committed to supporting her). Last August, as Biden called into the Democratic National Committee meeting in Minneapolis, Clinton campaign officials told Bloomberg News that Clinton already had 130 superdelegates publicly supporting her and that privately she had shored up 20 percent of the superdelegates necessary to win.

On the debate stage, Clinton embraced Obama, a move that made it more difficult for Biden to pitch himself as the Obama legacy candidate.