As Vice President Joe Biden continues to grieve the loss of his eldest son, speculation mounts as to whether he will seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2016, a move both of his sons reportedly encouraged.
"It’s no secret that Beau wanted him to run," Dick Harpootlian, former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, told The Wall Street Journal
. "If he does what Beau wanted him to do, he’ll run."
While Biden’s younger son, Hunter, didn’t respond to a request for comment from the newspaper, South Carolina state Rep. James Smith told the Journal that he has spoken with the younger Biden in the past two weeks and he "reiterated that he wanted his father to jump in the race ... He feels strongly about his dad running and serving."
The 72-year-old vice president — who ran for the White House in both 1998 and 2008 — had already been non-committal about his intentions when on May 30 Beau Biden, a former Delaware attorney general, succumbed to brain cancer.
Beau is the second child Biden last lost to tragedy. In 1972, his first wife, Neilia, and the couple's 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident that also seriously injured Biden’s two sons.
The career politician is faring better in polls than in the past. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 40 percent of Americans viewed him favorably, compared with 31 percent who held unfavorable views. That’s a five-point jump since November, when his favorability rating was at 35 percent.
Biden is expected to announce his intentions by August, according to USA Today
, which reports that a Draft Biden campaign has been launched by former staffers and campaign veterans in Iowa and New Hampshire. A petition urging Biden to run has been signed by some 100,000, according to the newspaper.
Although gaffe-prone, Biden is also seen as the best alternative to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner and presumed nominee, according to U.S. News & World Report
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is a "happy warrior" but a "welterweight," according to U.S. News, while progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s appeal among socially conservative Hispanics and blue-collar whites is "questionable."
Biden’s strengths include his everyman persona, strong union support, and the "behind-the-scenes backing of President Barack Obama and his top aides."
"It is they, some say, who made sure the world knew about Clinton’s email account," U.S. News reports, referencing revelations that Clinton exclusively used a private email account and server housed at her New York home to conduct government business. "It is they, it is rumored, who signaled to The New York Times and other liberal media that Clinton is now fair game. Room needs to be made for someone else, someone closer to the president and loyal to his agenda."
Harpootlian said Biden has indicated to him that the decision is about his family.
"It's all about his personal situation — 'Can I do this and not in any way deny my family what I can give them or do for them?'" he told USA Today.
"No one would blame him if he said, 'You know, look, it's just too much,'" said Harpootlian, adding that Biden is a "tough guy" who "fights his way through tough times."
For now, Biden is staying out of the fray, "getting briefed, coached and prepared for the moment when Clinton’s candidacy falls to earth," according to U.S. News. "At that point, Biden will come in as a white knight, without the scuffmarks of a long primary."
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