If Biden had announced he was running today, it would have been 144 days after the median Democratic candidate this year.
According to my previous research, only 11 other candidates since 1972 have declared that long after the median candidate entered the campaign. None of those 11 won the nomination, and only Jesse Jackson in 1988 received more than 20 percent of the national primary vote. Jackson, unlike Biden, had been attending campaign events long before formally declaring.
There are a ton of problems with declaring late. First, you don’t have a lot of time to raise money, and raising money isn’t easy. If it were, Biden would have raised more than $11.4 million in all of 2007 during his last run for the presidency. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have $33 million and $27 million on hand, respectively, through September. PACs and super PACs backing Clinton had nearly $16 million on hand through June. That’s a lot of money that can be used for advertising, direct mail, staff, travel, etc.
Declaring late also means you have limited time to recruit staff and build a campaign. Biden’s own former chief of staff, Ron Klain, is working on Clinton’s campaign, for example. A lot of veteran Democrats recognize how difficult it would have been for a Biden campaign to successfully organize. They know, for instance, that the Iowa caucus is only a few months away, and it takes time to build the type of organization necessary to turn out the vote in caucus states. Clinton and Sanders already have more than 30 campaign offices in Iowa between them, while Draft Biden has just two paid staffers. Biden wouldn’t have been likely to skip Iowa, but there’s a reason that some political observers were discussing the possibility.