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Biden Bid for WH Faces Tough Road      08/31 06:13

   Joe Biden may be considering whether to enter the race for president, but he 
sat out last week's meeting of the Democratic National Committee.

   MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The only trace of the vice president came on a candy 
wrapper.

   Joe Biden may be considering whether to enter the race for president, but he 
sat out last week's meeting of the Democratic National Committee. In his place, 
backers greeted a curious few in a hotel suite 20 floors above the official 
gathering, handing out chocolate bars wrapped with a stylized photo of Biden 
behind the wheel of a convertible and an "I'm Ridin' with Biden" label.

   In any other year, a sitting vice president would have headlined such a 
meeting as the heavy favorite for the party's nomination. Instead, the 
gathering served as proof that if Biden choses to run, he'll do so as an 
underdog to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

   Clinton's years-long flirtation with a second White House campaign --- time 
her allies used to lock up support of much of the Democratic Party's leadership 
--- and her undeniable political celebrity have upended the traditional script. 
Rather than inheriting his party's machine, a Biden campaign would have to find 
a way to take it back.

   "Secretary Clinton's folks have been talking to these people for a very, 
very long time," said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose vibrant crowds and 
steady poll numbers make him Clinton's strongest current challenger. "So she 
has a huge advantage."

   Yet Biden's supporters see an opening, due in no small part to Clinton's 
inability to shake questions about her use of a personal email server while 
serving as secretary of state. His candor, long history of fighting for 
Democratic causes and personal struggles --- a widower at a young age now 
grieving over the recent death of his son Beau --- make him an admired figure 
in the party.

   "He's one of us. He gets it," said Jon Cooper, a supporter who this summer 
began working with a group encouraging Biden to enter the race. "Everybody 
likes Joe Biden."

   That group, a super PAC named Draft Biden, is a blend of Chicago-based fans 
of the vice president and political operatives with ties to his family. It sent 
five employees to the DNC meeting, emailing attendees and passing out fliers in 
hallways to invite people to their pro-Biden hotel suite.

   A total of about 75 came to four open-house sessions, said Josh Alcorn, a 
former aide to Beau Biden who joined the group with the family's blessing.

   "People seemed excited about the possibility and were willing to take a 
look," he said.

   Some Democrats who heard the pitch asked to stay in touch. Others remained 
skeptical.

   "I asked them, 'What's his path?'" said Mitchell Ceasar, a Florida attorney 
and party operative. Their answer --- that he could cobble together votes from 
all sorts of Democratic coalitions --- prompted a shrug.

   "The challenge to the vice president is to present a compelling argument why 
someone should get on a different train, a different train that's going in the 
same direction," he said.

   The practicalities of running also remain difficult for the vice president. 
His supporters say he must decide before the first Democratic debate, in 
mid-October.

   While Biden has no campaign operation beyond the small Draft Biden group, 
Clinton has for months built a sprawling machine of hundreds of employees 
working out of her Brooklyn campaign headquarters and in dozens of offices 
across the country. Her version of Draft Biden, a since-shuttered outside group 
called Ready for Hillary, spent years before Clinton got into the race amassing 
millions of email addresses of potential supporters.

   Money is another challenge. Biden represented the small state of Delaware in 
the Senate and has never raised significant sums for his own campaigns. Draft 
Biden, just a few months old, raised less than $100,000 through the end of 
June. While supporters say bigger checks have been rolling in recently, Clinton 
is a former first lady and senator from New York with a strong fundraising 
history. In the first three months of her campaign, she raised $45 million for 
the primary contest alone.

   Clinton's team has also devoted significant resources already to wooing 
super delegates --- the party and elected officials empowered to select the 
presidential nominee at the Democratic national convention regardless of the 
2016 primaries.

   Clinton backers, who sported gold "H'' lapel pins at the DNC meetings, were 
rewarded for their loyalty with invitations to private briefings from Clinton 
and top campaign officials.

   Several hundred Democratic delegates who signed cards pledging to support 
her mingled atop a skyscraper in downtown Minneapolis Thursday night. Clinton 
talked for about 15 minutes, drawing cheers when she assured them, "I'm not a 
quitter."

   Ed Cote, a Washington state Democratic leader and a Clinton admirer, said 
that event was a perfect example of why Biden would find himself in a tougher 
primary than a sitting vice president might expect.

   "Most of the people there have votes on the first ballots, and they're 
solidly with her," Cote said. "She's doing exactly what she needs to be doing."

   Clinton learned the importance of that support in 2008, when she ended her 
long, hard-fought primary campaign after it became clear she lacked enough 
delegates to capture the nomination.

   "We are working really hard to lock in as many supporters as possible," 
Clinton said Friday. "This is really about how you put the numbers together to 
secure the nomination."


(KA)


 
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