Mary Carey Foley

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — In the next few weeks or so, after a healing family vacation, Vice President Joe Biden will tell the world whether he’ll make his third attempt at the presidency.

Meantime, Mary Carey Foley continues to hold her quiet vigil, praying that the man she calls her BFF will run, electrifying the race, she says, with something for which Hillary Rodham Clinton, so far, has shown little capacity. Genuineness. Spontaneity. Passion.

“He’s a character with character,’’ Foley told me at a downtown coffee shop here. “I’ve never been a Hillary fan. I find her cold. I find her calculating. She’s just not genuine. You watch her in a crowd. Joe Biden would never act like that. He lights up a room. Does she light up a room?’’


Foley, a retired high school English teacher, is the daughter and granddaughter of Portsmouth mayors. She traces her friendship with Biden to the mid-1980s when a parade of Democrats running for president in 1988 sought the blessing of her mother, former mayor Eileen Dondero Foley, a Democratic activist for more than 30 years.

When Biden first met Foley and her mother, the two women nudged each other. “Ma, this is it,’’ she said. “This is the guy. His smile. His charisma. His charm. His eye contact. We loved him instantly. And I never let go from that day on.’’

The Bidens have pasted Mary Carey Foley’s postcards on their kitchen fridge. When her father died 11 years ago, Biden was on the phone with her for a lengthy sympathy call. When Biden’s mother passed away in 2010, Foley was at the wake and funeral.

And after Beau Biden, the vice president’s 46-year-old son, died in May of brain cancer, Foley knelt at his flag-draped casket and then felt the vice president’s hands on her shoulders.


“I said, ‘Joe, when you hurt, I hurt,’ ’’ she recalled.

As first reported by The New York Times, Biden, 72, was implored by his dying son to run again for the White House. That news has triggered a series of will-he or won’t-he analyses, handicapping his chances and dissecting the political consequences of another Biden-for-president candidacy.

Is he too old? What about his penchant for on-the-stump gaffes? Will a third attempt — a grueling uphill venture — tarnish the legacy he’s built as President Obama’s trusted wingman?

But for those who, like Foley, find Clinton, by comparison, overly scripted at best and robotic at worst, here’s how they’d greet a Biden decision to run: “Hallelujah!’’

When Biden was in New Hampshire last year, Foley found herself in a tete-a-tete with him, poking the vice president in the chest to make her point.

Mary Carey Foley at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden during a recent St. Patrick's Day event.
Mary Carey Foley at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden during a recent St. Patrick's Day event.Mary Carey Foley/handout

She recalled their exchange: “I said, ‘I don’t have the money to write you a big fat check, but I will match my passion for you to be in the White House against all the money in the world.’ He said, ‘I know that, kid. That goes without saying.’ ’’

With Clinton campaigning about 10 miles away on Monday, I suggested a Biden candidacy could help Clinton sharpen her candidacy. Foley balked, but then acknowledged: “Quite possibly Hillary could become a nicer person or a better person because of Joe Biden.’’

At age 64, Mary Carey Foley should be too young to start a bucket list. Nevertheless, she has one. It’s an impressive list with a high degree of difficulty.


She wants to meet Barry Manilow. She wants to have dinner with Bobby Orr.

And she wants to stand on the West Front of the US Capitol on Jan. 20, 2017, and watch Joe Biden become the 45th president of the United States.

Clinton could stumble. But I have a feeling Foley’s got a better chance of dining with the great Number Four at Wentworth by the Sea than seeing Biden — his left hand on the Bible — recite the presidential oath after Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts.

But she wants her old friend to try.

So do I.

Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at thomas.farragher@globe.com.