A quiet rumble of encouragement inside Democratic Party ranks for Joe Biden to get off the fence and declare himself a candidate for president is growing steadily louder amid mounting evidence that Hillary Clinton’s campaign may be in trouble.
The latest poll showed her support slipping sharply in Iowa, the crucial first state to take part in next year’s nominating process, and comes days after friends of Mr Biden’s son, Beau, who died from brain cancer three months ago, urged the US Vice President to run.
Mr Biden has been struggling for weeks over whether to pass up the opportunity to make another run for his party’s nomination – it would be his third and, at 72, almost certainly his last – or sit out the 2016 presidential race.
Mrs Clinton’s woes open a window for him. A new Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics poll showed her falling below 50 per cent support in Iowa for the first time to a very unimpressive 37 per cent, barely ahead of left-wing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who scored 30 per cent. Even as a non-candidate, Mr Biden won 14 per cent support, a higher score than he managed when he actually ran in 2008.
In pictures: Hillary Clinton's Rivals
In pictures: Hillary Clinton's Rivals
1/5 Martin O’Malley
The former Maryland Governor and mayor of Baltimore, 52, has never disguised his national ambitions. His record is moderate, but is to the left of Clinton’s
2/5 Jim Webb
The former Reagan administration official, 69, who switched to the Democrats and served as senator for Virginia. If he runs he would at least ask Clinton tough questions.
3/5 Bernie Sanders
The Senate’s one socialist, 73, is in favour of a single-payer healthcare system and anti-Wall Street. He is popular in his native Vermont, but has no national following.
4/5 Joe Biden
Obama’s Vice-President, 72, has the political heft, but is probably too old, and has done no obvious spadework for a White House bid.
5/5 Elizabeth Warren
Massachusetts senator, 65, and Clinton’s strongest putative opponent. Her anti-Wall Street stance has made her the darling of the left. The problem is that she insists she is not running
“These results are the latest sign that voters respect and trust the Vice President and are looking for a candidate who speaks authentically and openly about the issues important to them,” said a statement from Draft Biden, a group that has been agitating for him to jump in. They make clear the Vice President would have the support needed to mount a strong, competitive campaign.”
Even though the state-by-state processing of picking a nominee doesn’t start until the Iowa caucuses on 1 February, Mr Biden would be late to the game. Mrs Clinton, who declared in April, would have an organisational and fund-raising advantage. He would probably have to make up his mind during September and certainly before the first Democratic debate set for 13 October in Las Vegas.
Mr Biden was sighted on Saturday glad-handing Democrat activists at a barbecue jamboree in Delaware. This week he heads to the critical state of Florida to discuss student debt and meet American Jews about the deal with Iran. Both might easily be construed as campaign events, even though he will be addressing them in his capacity as Vice President.
Mrs Clinton, who stands accused by many in her own party of grievously mishandling the furor over her use of a personal email server while US Secretary of State, now faces a Sanders insurgency from the left and the possibility of a challenge from Mr Biden. In Iowa she has responded by gathering endorsements from two important Iowa Democrats, ex-governor Tom Vilsack and former senator Tom Harkin.
In the same Iowa poll, Donald Trump held his lead among Republicans with 23 per cent, while former neuro-surgeon Ben Carson edged closer with 18 per cent. Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s governor, took just 8 per cent. He baffled many yesterday saying that building a wall along the US border with Canada, as well as with Mexico, was a “legitimate issue for us to look at”.
While Mr Biden is still grieving for his son, it is also known that before his death, Beau urged his father to run. The intensely personal and emotional nature of his conundrum was spelled out by Mr Biden himself last week when he told delegates at the Democratic Party’s annual meeting that he was trying to see “whether or not there is the emotional fuel at this time to run”.Reuse content