Joe Biden indicated Tuesday that he has cleared a significant hurdle as he decides whether to run for president in 2020.
The former vice president — in a freewheeling discussion with author Jon Meacham at the newly christened Biden School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware — said there’s a “consensus” among his family that he should join the Democratic primary race.
“I’ll just tell you straight up,” Biden said, responding to a question from Meacham during the livestreamed event. “I know the people of Delaware may not be surprised by this, but others might. We do everything by family meetings, because no man or woman has a right to run for high public office without it being a family decision. And from being pushed — pushed, prodded — by my son Hunter, and my wife Jill, and my daughter, there is … we just had a family meeting with all the grandkids, too. And there’s a consensus that, I should, they want — they, the most important people in my life — want me to run.”
Though Biden is confident his family is on board, “the second piece,” he said, “is that I don’t want this to be a fool’s errand. And I want to make sure, if we do this — and we’re very close to getting to a decision — that I am fully prepared to do it.”
Biden, 76, would join a large field of Democrats looking to challenge President Donald Trump. More than a half dozen prominent candidates have already launched campaigns or exploratory committees. Others are likely to join the race soon.
The Democratic Party, and the political environment at large, has changed since Biden was vice president under Barack Obama. “For example,” Biden noted Tuesday, “from the last time Barack and I ran … the whole issue of social media and the use of social media has fundamentally changed. And so we’ve been getting briefings from the most advanced people in the country who run these major platforms.”
Funding a campaign “on my conditions” is another challenge, Biden said. Long a fixture of the Democratic establishment, he said to applause Tuesday that he will “not be a part of a super PAC” and indicated he would not accept money from such organizations — a progressive stance adopted by many candidates already in the race. He added that he’s received offers from Democratic donors and some Republicans.
The exchange came near the end of a 90-minute forum with Meacham, who was at the inaugural Biden School event to promote his book, The Soul of America. Biden, ostensibly, was supposed to interview Meacham, but Meacham, a journalist, at several points tried to steer the conversation to Biden’s future plans.
“I would be remiss in not asking this,” Meacham finally ventured. “There are a number of people in this room and around this country who would very much like to see your character back in the arena. So what are you confident— what are you able to tell us at this point about your thinking?”
Biden appeared to speak off the cuff and had one long pause as he began his long and winding answer. At one point, Biden, who has made two previous presidential bids and nearly ran in 2016, said he could “die a happy man never having lived in the White House” and that he would not want to waste people’s time if he doesn’t have a clear shot at the nomination.
A moment later, a member of the audience shouted “Just say yes!” Others joined in applause.
“But I’m not there yet,” Biden said. “I don’t want to mislead you. I’m being straight-forward. Look, no one’s ever doubted I mean what I say. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean. And so this has to be — we’re in the final stages of that decision. But it would, you know, be the greatest honor of my life to be president of the United States, but also it’s something that I have to make sure that I could run a first-rate effort to do this, and make clear where I think the country should go and how to get there. That’s the process going on right now. That’s as straightforward as I can be. I have not made the final decision, but don’t be surprised.”