MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former vice president Joe Biden addressed a sold-out New Hampshire Democratic Party fund-raiser Sunday night, an appearance that stoked speculation Biden could make a third run for president.
Speaking at the 100 Club dinner, Biden acknowledged that the trip to the state that holds the first presidential primary raised eyebrows, but he said he was not there as a candidate: “Guys, I am not running.”
That was the only time Biden addressed his future during hourlong remarks to 800 people in a Manchester ballroom, and he mentioned President Trump only in passing.
Instead, he spent most of his time talking about three values that he believes are not part of the national conversation today: dignity, optimism, and the willingness to do big things.
“In America, it has always been about optimism,” Biden said. “We are better positioned than any nation on Earth to lead the world in the 21st century.”
While Biden, 74, said he is not running, his schedule does not suggest that he is in political retirement.
In addition to his appearance in New Hampshire, he will keynote a major fund-raiser for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, address a Florida Democratic fund-raiser, and give a series of commencement speeches, including at Harvard’s Class Day.
Biden’s appearance capped a week that jump-started discussion of the 2020 New Hampshire primary. A week earlier, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley made multiple stops in the state.
On Thursday, Ohio Governor John Kasich, who finished second to Trump in last year’s Republican New Hampshire presidential primary, visited Manchester to promote a book and meet with local press.
The 100 Club dinner has served as an opportunity for future Democratic presidential candidates to speak in front of the state’s top activists since aides to John F. Kennedy created the dinner in 1959 ahead of the state’s presidential primary.
Biden delivered the keynote to the dinner in 1985 and 2011. He unsuccessfully ran for president in 1988 and 2008.
“There are a lot of people in the state who would like to see him give it another try,” said Jim Demers, a Concord lobbyist who served as the point man in the state for Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns. “There are a lot of people who have a lot of warm feelings for him.”
Biden has not ruled out a run for president in 2020. In December, he joked with a CNN reporter that he was running in 2020.
Asked which office he was running for: “For president. What the hell, man,” Biden said.
In March, Biden said at Colgate University that he had mixed feelings about his decision not to run in 2016, a campaign that began as he was mourning the death of his son, Beau Biden.
“Do I regret not being president? Yes. Do I regret not running for president, in light of everything that was going on in my life at the time? No,” Biden said at Colgate.
One of the most influential New Hampshire Democrats, state Senator Lou D’Allesandro, said the party needs Biden to be among those running in 2020.
“He simply has to be part of the lineup,” said D’Allesandro, of Manchester. “He can connect with the middle class, and right now our party has zero connection with that group.”
James Pindell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell. Click here to subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics.