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Biden Tiptoes Toward 2020 Run          02/18 11:30

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a 
potential presidential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a 
recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides.

   Huddled in his newly opened office steps from the U.S. Capitol, Biden began 
a planning meeting for his new diplomacy center by addressing the elephant in 
the room. He said he was keeping his 2020 options open, considering it a real 
possibility. He insisted he had made no decision, and didn't need to yet, 
according to five people who either attended the meeting or were briefed on it 
by those who did.

   Biden also expressed interest in bringing those in the room onto his team if 
he decides to launch a campaign. At the same time, he gave them an out: There 
would be no hard feelings if they decided they were content in their current 
roles outside of government, said the people, who demanded anonymity to discuss 
a private meeting.

   The political world has long tried to game out Biden's plans for 2020. After 
all, he came close to running last time only to see President Donald Trump pull 
off a victory that many Democrats openly suggest wouldn't have happened had he, 
not Hillary Clinton, been their nominee. Several people came away from the 
meeting with the impression that if no strong Democratic candidate emerges in 
the next year or so, Biden would feel strongly compelled to run.

   A presidential candidate twice before, Biden would be 78 on Inauguration Day 
if elected in 2020, a concerning prospect for some Democrats even though he's 
only a few years older than Trump. One possibility that Biden's longtime 
advisers have discussed privately is that he could announce his intention to 
serve only one term, clearing the path for his running mate to take over in 
2024 and potentially setting up Democrats for a 12-year White House stretch.

   Biden's brief discussion about his 2020 deliberations came as he brought 
foreign policy staffers together to set the 2018 agenda for the newly opened 
Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement --- where many of them 
are now working, including Colin Kahl, his vice presidential national security 
adviser, and Steve Ricchetti, his former chief of staff. Eli Ratner, his former 
deputy national security adviser, and Mike Carpenter, the former Pentagon and 
State Department official who's now the center's senior director, also 
attended, as did Julianne Smith, a Biden adviser in the Obama administration's 
first term who now works at the Center for a New American Security, a 
Washington think tank.

   A Biden spokesman declined to comment. But in a recent NBC News interview, 
Biden said he'd decide on running in 2020 based on whether it was "the right 
thing to do."

   "I'm focused on one thing: electing a Democratic Congress to stop this 
erosion of the core of who we are," Biden said. "I'll look at that a year from 
now. I have plenty of time to consider whether or not to run."

   The meeting was one of several signs that Biden is beginning to position 
himself as an alternative to Trump. Biden has started denouncing the current 
president's leadership more frequently in public, as he crisscrosses the United 
States and beyond to promote his new book, his cancer initiative, his new 
domestic policy institute in Delaware, the diplomacy center and his new 
political action committee, American Possibilities.

   He's also been gearing up to play a major role campaigning for Democrats 
seeking to retake the House and Senate in the 2018 midterms.

   "Donald Trump's looking out for Donald Trump. Republicans are looking out 
for Donald Trump. Who's looking out for everyone else? Democrats," Biden wrote 
in a recent fundraising pitch to the PAC's supporters. He said in 2018, he 
would "beat a path all across this country to stand up for leaders who will 
stand up for all of us."

   In 2015, Biden's face was plastered across cable news channels and newspaper 
front pages for months as he carried out a lengthy deliberation about whether 
to challenge Clinton for the nomination. Ultimately, he decided he and his 
family weren't in position to run so soon after his son, former Delaware 
Attorney General Beau Biden, died from brain cancer earlier that year. Yet many 
Democrats have argued that his "everyman" brand and blue-collar appeal would 
make him particularly well-suited to challenge Trump.


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