As several Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), have launched their 2020 presidential campaigns in recent weeks, Penn professor Joe Biden continues to flirt with a possible campaign.
Biden boasts the best favorability ratings among possible 2020 Democratic contenders and led in a December poll of Iowa's likely caucus-goers. A recent report from The New York Times also detailed how he was preparing for a potential run. But amid the rumors, the Penn Biden Center is planning as if the following months will be business as usual.
Penn Biden Center Director of Communications Carlyn Reichel said in an email that the “upcoming semester includes policy roundtables in Washington and annual events with Vice President Biden on campus.” Reichel did not mention anything in the Center's schedule for this semester regarding a presidential campaign.
Despite the lack of any official announcements, experts say the Penn Biden Center may be helping to shape the former vice president’s path to becoming the next commander-in-chief.
The Washington-based Center, which officially launched last February, hosts annual campus events with Biden and seeks to bring him closer to Penn, Reichel added. The Center also has a strong focus on promoting U.S. global leadership. The Center has hosted a number of influential people — including former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and former Mexican President Felipe Calderon — as part of its Penn Biden Leaders Dialogue, which features Biden holding conversations with influential political and media figures.
Political Science professor Marc Meredith said the most significant aspect of the Biden Center is "that it allows some of Biden's advisors to remain close to Biden even though he is currently outside of government."
Meredith added that prominent people involved with the Center will likely be involved with the former vice president's presidential campaign if he decides to run.
“I would expect that some of the people who are affiliated with the Penn Biden Center would join the Biden campaign if he did decide to run for president,” Meredith said.
Key Biden Center officials include Steve Ricchetti, Biden’s chief of staff from 2013 to 2017, and Brian McKeon, his former national security advisor. A number of other Obama-era policymakers and advisors also serve among the Center’s leadership.
Politico recently reported that Ricchetti, who now serves as managing director at the Center, could be part of the core infrastructure for a future Biden campaign, and NBC also listed him as part of Biden’s “political inner circle” in June.
While Biden Center officials could help chart his path to the presidency, some think this does not necessarily signal a presidential run. Professor of Political Science and Communication Diana Mutz said Biden’s political activity isn't significantly out of the ordinary.
“I’m pretty sure Joe Biden would be active in public affairs regardless. He has many different centers at more than just one university,” Mutz said.
If Biden does decide to run, he would be following the path of many other successful former vice presidents, such as Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, as well as losing candidates like Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, Political Science professor Matthew Levendusky said.
“So it would not be unusual for Biden to run,” Levendusky added.
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