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National

Biden Fuels Speculation Of Presidential Run With College Affordability Speech

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The unsettled nature of the U.S. presidential campaign at this point is causing a lot of chatter about others who might jump in the race, namely Vice President Joe Biden. Today, he gave a speech about college affordability in Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: Look at all the press you've attracted.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Biden made jokes but gave no clues about whether he will run. Still, there's a lot more he's doing to fuel speculation. To talk about those things and what it would mean if the vice president did run is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: What else is Biden up stirring speculation?

LIASSON: Well, he's doing a lot. Just look at his schedule. Today, he was in Miami talking about college affordability. Tonight, he'll be at a Democratic fundraiser. Tomorrow, he'll be in Atlanta, Ga., talking to Jewish Democrats about the Iran deal. Then on Labor Day, he'll be in Pennsylvania, which is a swing state, doing a Labor Day event in Pittsburgh. Then next Thursday, he sits down with Stephen Colbert, the new host of CBS late-night. So if that doesn't sound like someone who is seriously thinking about running for president, I don't know what does.

MARTIN: OK. Does that mean that your money is on Biden jumping into the race, Mara?

LIASSON: No because he hasn't said yet. He will make a decision, he says, by the end of the month. But he's been in the White House for almost seven years, and he has not laid any of the groundwork for a run. He's certainly keeping his options open, but it's not clear whether he will end up doing this. He spoke on a conference call with Democrats recently, and he raised the question of whether he has the fire in his belly. He noted that he's not sure if he has the, quote, "emotional fuel to run." You know, his son, Beau, died of brain cancer in May. And this is a little bit of tape from that conference call. It's hard to hear, but let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: If I were to announce to run, I have to be able to commit to all of you that I would be able to give it my whole heart and my whole soul. And right now, both are pretty well banged up. And we're trying to figure out that issue.

LIASSON: So what he just said there was if I ran, I'd have to give it my whole heart and soul. And right now, both of them are pretty well banged up.

MARTIN: OK, so from the perspective of the Democratic Party, what are the pros and cons of Biden running?

LIASSON: Well, the rank and file in the Democratic Party do not want a coronation of Hillary Clinton as the nominee. So it would be positive because it would bring more competition to the race. Biden is also polling really well right now, but there are a lot of buts. The biggest question is what does he offer that's unique, that's different from Hillary Clinton? He's very similar to her in his profile. He's white. He's older. He served the administration. He certainly can't capture the antiestablishment fever that's been sweeping the Democratic Party base. He's been a career politician for 45 years. So the big question is, what lane does he fill that's unique, whether it's geographically, ideologically or some special constituency?

He is well liked. There's a lot of affection for Joe Biden in the Democratic Party. He's kind of like a lovable uncle. But he still is not beating Hillary Clinton with key groups, even though his political persona is authentic in a way that she's not. So for him to win, she has to implode. He doesn't have the luxury to wait three to four months to find out if she will. And there are real questions about whether it's already too late for Joe Biden to raise the money and build an infrastructure for a campaign.

MARTIN: When does he have to make a decision, Mara?

LIASSON: Well, he doesn't really have to make a decision any time. But the reason he said that he'll make it by the end of this month is because he would have to raise tens of millions of dollars and set up a campaign. I mean, one of the big questions is whether a run would be good for him, good for her, good for the Democrats. This would be his third try. Joe Biden has run for president twice before. He has never won a single primary. So for him to lose on his third try would be a pretty ignoble and to a great career in public service.

I think the party would welcome it. The party wants competition. There are many Democrats who think it would be good for Hillary Clinton because she'd have a serious opponent, and it would help her become a better candidate. Right now, she's basically running against herself and her problems. But these are some of the reasons why most Democrats in these online betting pools think he will not.

MARTIN: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson - thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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