WASHINGTON — The movement to pull Vice President Joe Biden into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination appears to be gathering support.
The main group behind the effort has more than 200,000 addresses on its e-mail distribution list, up from a few thousand names in March, Joshua Alcorn, senior adviser to “Draft Biden 2016,” said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Joe Biden is the original authentic candidate,” said Alcorn, a former aide to the vice president’s late son, Beau. “It’s our job at ‘Draft Biden’ to sort of remind people of who Joe Biden is.”
The vice president is undertaking a “deliberative process” with his family and inner circle on what the best decision would be, Alcorn said.
On Saturday, the Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., ran an editorial encouraging Biden to run.
It was another sign of Biden’s special ties to the state, where the third contest in the 2016 presidential eliminations will take place next year and where Biden and his wife, Jill, retreated recently to consider his future.
Over the course of the couple’s vacation on Kiawah Island, many of the players in his South Carolina campaign-in-waiting reached out in person, through calls, or with messages to him through aides, pledging their support if he decides to get in.
“We talked many times about him running in 2016, before Beau fell ill again, and during, and after his passing,” said state Representative James E. Smith Jr., who said he has been in contact with Biden and aides. “This was a very important week for [Biden and his wife] as they’re working through this personal decision.”
“As soon as he announces, he’ll immediately have the most formidable organization in the state,” said Smith, predicting the vice president will run while stressing that Biden has not told him anything definitive. “We will have a longstanding organization ready when he gives the go, when he and Jill say they’re ready.”
Iowa was Biden’s Waterloo in 2008, the last time he ran for president, and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont are expected to have New Hampshire pretty well carved up this time around. But the vice president long ago won the affections of two divergent pillars of South Carolina politics by delivering the eulogy for the state’s longtime Republican senator Strom Thurmond and bonding with his former Democratic colleague, Senator Fritz Hollings.
The Bidens love to vacation on Kiawah Island, where they just spent a week with family, recovering from the loss of Biden’s son. Before he died of brain cancer in May, Beau Biden reportedly encouraged his father, who is 72, to take another shot at the White House.
All these factors explain why South Carolina is at the heart of the vice president’s early-state strategy should he mount a late bid against Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Biden, who went in June with President Obama to mourn the racially motivated killings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and stayed on to commune with parishioners on his own, also has amassed a list of state lawmakers and black pastors who have supported him before and are holding off on a commitment to Clinton until they know what he is going to do.
South Carolina is a big military state with voters who also have family ties to the troops. Beau Biden was an Iraq veteran; over the weekend Vice President Biden choked back tears eulogizing other dead servicemembers.