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Could Biden Make A Presidential Run In 2020?


Barack Obama has done what most former presidents do. He's largely stayed out of the political spotlight. His vice president, Joe Biden, is charting a different course. Lately Biden has been making more and more high-profile appearances, and that's raising questions about his political future. NPR's Scott Detrow reports.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: This week Joe Biden won a big award from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. His speech sounded far from celebratory.


JOE BIDEN: President Obama and I have been very quiet and respectful, giving the administration time.

DETROW: Not any more, Biden says.


BIDEN: Among the many problems plaguing this administration's foreign policy - ideological incoherence, inconsistent and confusing messaging, erratic decision-making, unwillingness or inability to solve problems caused by understaffing.

DETROW: Among Biden's biggest concerns - that President Trump has walked away from the many deals cut by the Obama administration - the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate accord and the recent rumblings. The Iran nuclear deal may be next.


BIDEN: We really worry that we are walking down a very dark path. It's not alarmist. We're walking down a very dark path that isolates the United States on the world stage.

DETROW: It was a sober and stark speech from Biden.


BIDEN: My name is Joe Biden.


DETROW: It was a much different Joe Biden who made a stop in Alabama, campaigning for the Democrat running for Senate.


BIDEN: And I've been working with Doug Jones a long, long time.

DETROW: In between, there was a speech at Lyndon Johnson's Presidential Library in Texas. So what's going on here? Florida political operative Steve Schale worked for the Draft Biden movement in 2015. But he says, don't read too much into this.

STEVE SCHALE: He has been, as folks who have followed his career, very active trying to help lend support to state parties and down-ballot candidates his entire career. And he said, you know, when he left office, he was not going to stop.

DETROW: Still, Schale gets the pitch of a possible campaign.

SCHALE: It's quite possible that sort of the perfect response to Trump is somebody like Joe Biden, who is older, who's sort of experienced, who's very competent, very trustworthy. You know, I think it could be a really nice contrast.

DETROW: On the other hand, many Democrats look at 2016 and think one big flaw was Hillary Clinton's decades-long career in the public eye. Biden's been on the national stage for nearly two decades longer than Clinton was. And all of this comes at a time when many Democrats are itching to see a new class of leaders. Just this week, House Democrat Linda Sanchez urged Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the caucus' top brass to step aside.


LINDA SANCHEZ: Their contributions to the Congress and to the caucus are substantial, but I think there comes a time when you need to pass that torch. And I think it's time.

DETROW: Still, it's clear Biden loves the public eye. And it's clear the Alabama crowd loved him and his stories.


BIDEN: And he was having supper with Herman Talmadge, who talked at you like this when he talked.


BIDEN: Well, I'm not making fun, by the way. Any of you know the state of Delaware, the southern two-thirds of my state is southern. The Delmarva Peninsula - they talk funny like y'all do too, you know what I mean?


BIDEN: Not a joke.

DETROW: The Biden appearances aren't stopping any time soon. He has a new book coming out next month. And just like Hillary Clinton did, he'll go on an extended book tour. So whether he's made up his mind or not, if Biden stays this active over the next year, the idea of him as a possible presidential contender won't be a joke, either. Scott Detrow, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW BIRD'S "LOGAN'S LOOP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.