Joe Biden wants to be president.
And each day, he’s closer to being ready to run for the office. But even as he weighs a campaign to unseat President Donald Trump, Biden is carefully considering a key question — what happens when the president or his top allies try to make his family an issue?
Conversations with aides to the former vice president and others who’ve spoken with him in recent weeks present the idea of a Biden candidacy as not if but when. Since the start of the year it’s been like a “slow boil,” as one aide put it, with Biden’s answer on whether to run moving in a steady direction toward yes, incrementally warmer with each passing day.
Elected Democrats and key party figures who’ve spoken with Biden, in person or by phone, say he has been giving percentages of the likelihood of him running — from 70, to 80 and even more recently 90 percent. He speaks regularly with former President Barack Obama, who is acting as a sounding board to his former running mate. And he’s even called several of his would-be opponents in the 2020 Democratic primary, congratulating them on their announcements and wishing them well even as he may soon face off against them.
Sources close to the former vice president say he’s clear-eyed about the political challenge ahead if he runs, not taking anything for granted in a crowded race for the nomination even as he’s confident he offers the party the best chance to beat Trump.
But Biden knows and expects the president to fight as hard to stay in the White House as he did to win it in the first place — and he’s already shown nothing is off limits.
“I understand how anyone running could be concerned about the ways in which President Trump demonstrated in the 2016 election an enthusiasm for attacking not just his opponents but his family, including famously by making things up,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who met with Biden recently to discuss the campaign.
“I offered my general advice that he should do what he does best, which is focus on the positive and let others take up the mantle of defending his family, his record and his honor to the extent that’s at all necessary,” Coons told NBC News.
No line of attack would be more reprehensible to the former vice president than one directed at his family, and he and his team have been forced to consider that even as they also weigh the political dynamics.