Just after Joe Biden drew titters and compounded his reputation for gaffes by asserting in a speech in New York last summer that Barack Obama has a "big stick", former Delaware Senator Ted Kaufman said the question of whether the Vice-President would seek the top job for himself in 2016 was almost silly. Of course.
Mr Kaufman, who served as chief-of-staff to Mr Biden for 17 of the 35 years he spent in the Senate before joining the Democratic ticket in 2008, should know. But only now, with Mr Obama achieving re-election for a second term, will it be the subject of an intense guessing game in Washington. Could he really carry the Obama torch in 2016? He will be 73 years old, and his reputation is mixed: committed to what he believes in, but jokey. Yet it is in the jokes that scholars of Mr Biden often discern his real intentions. How about last week on the campaign trail in Florida when he was heard using this line to persuade a Republican to cross the fence to the Democrats? "And after it's all over, when your insurance rates go down, then you'll vote for me in 2016," he said, laughing.
A variation of the same theme occurred on Tuesday as Mr Biden queued to cast his vote near his home in Delaware. Was this the last time in his long career that he would be voting for himself, a reporter asked. "No, I don't think so," he responded. Aha. Or was that a joke too?