Joe Biden is back in the political arena — at least for now.
The former vice president and early 2020 front-runner will return to the stage for his first explicitly political speeches since last fall’s midterms, with a pair of high-profile events bringing him back into the national political spotlight.
Biden will headline the International Association of Fire Fighters’ annual conference on Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C. The union stands ready to endorse him as soon as he jumps into the campaign, should he decide on a bid.
Then on Saturday, Biden will head home to headline the Delaware Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner.
The pair of speeches to friendly audiences gives the former vice president a chance to tune up for 2020, test out key campaign themes and potentially make a big announcement, though that seems less than likely to happen.
A Biden spokesman declined to discuss what the former vice president’s aims would be with the speeches.
A source close to Biden downplayed their import — “He’s been talking about a better path forward for American and the middle class for six months now” — but admitted they will draw a ton of interest and scrutiny.
Biden isn’t a lock to run, though a campaign looks more and more likely. He said in a late February appearance that “the most important people in my life want me to run,” signaling that his family is on board. Democrats close to Biden tell TPM he’s been sounding more and more like a candidate in recent weeks. He’s told other Democrats this past week that he’s leaning strongly toward a run, and he’s locked in some key potential staff, including former Latino Victory Fund head Cristobal Alex. But Biden has come close to running multiple times in the past before backing away at the last minute. Biden has spent the last few days on vacation with family, a recharge before the potential marathon of a presidential bid.
Even if he does decide to run, sources close to Biden say he will likely decide to wait until early April on a decision, letting the April 1 fundraising deadline pass and giving himself more of a chance to build up his campaign war chest before he has to reveal it publicly.
“It makes no sense to get in before April 1,” said the source close to Biden.
And it remains to be seen how Biden performs as a candidate. His two previous presidential runs didn’t go so well, and the 76-year-old faces a bevy of younger opponents without the decades of political baggage he brings to the race. Biden will have to get past questions about his long history of economic centrism, support for the credit card industry, and views and comments on race, gender and policing that may not have aged well in the modern Democratic Party. A spate of recent stories looking into his past show hint at what’s to come if Biden decides to take the plunge.
But he brings in near-universal name recognition and a strong bond both with blue-collar white voters and African Americans that give him a real path to the nomination, if he can hold on to them. Biden has regularly led in national and early-state Democratic primary polls, though that’s likely based largely on name identification.