The rise of Biden
Yes, President Obama's second term is just barely getting underway.
Yes, the next election is still nearly four years away.
But that isn't stopping speculation in political circles about the future of long time Delaware Senator and now two-term Vice President.
After a long career in the Senate, Biden has made it to the pinnacle of American politics...almost. And while Biden may be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office, his aspirations to be elected President can't be denied.
Former Delaware Congressman Mike Castle served beside Biden in Congress for nearly two decades. He says Biden has wanted to be president for a very long time, "It is said that he came out of the womb thinking about being President of the United States. There may be some truth to that."
While it may be obscenely early to speculate about Biden's future prospects, here we go.
After a dreadful performance by President Obama in his first debate with Mitt Romney, it was Biden stepped up to the plate against Paul Ryan in the only VP debate. Some people credit Biden's performance in that debate with providing some much needed momentum for the Obama campaign to bring home a win.
Then in November, the early buzz on Election Day centered around comments Biden after voting at his polling place in Wilmington. Far from squelching the speculation, Biden fanned the flames by hinting that he hadn't voted for himself for the final time.
"This is the 8th time that I've run statewide in the state of Delaware and it's always a kick," said Biden. When asked if he had just voted for himself for the last time, Biden replied, "No, I don't think so." Later in the day, Biden backpedaled, sarcastically suggesting that he would consider a run for a seat on New Castle County Council after leaving the White House.
Fiscal cliff and guns
It seems that Biden's role in the Obama administration's second term has been a bit higher profile than the first four years. Over the past few weeks, the President has given Biden the lead role on negotians on a pair of white hot topics: the fiscal cliff and, most recently, gun control. When Obama announced his plans to reduce gun violence, he started with a big nod to Biden. "Let me begin by thanking our Vice President Joe Biden, for your dedication, Joe to this issue, for bringing so many voices to the table."
Delaware State University political science professor Sam Hoff warns against reading too much into Biden's lead role on those issues. He says the second term typically sees an elevation of the Vice President's role. "That's also a pattern not necessarily just unique in the Obama administration of a vice president being used more really goes back to the Carter administration and the role of Walter Mondale."
As routine as it may be for the VP to take a bigger role in the second term, it hasn't stopped the speculation. Biden's son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is asked about the topic nearly everytime he appears in national interviews, so often that he always responds in the same way, almost down to the exact words. "My dad, I know is focused on one thing, and that's being the best Vice President he can be to President Barack Obama, and to this nation," Biden said from memory.
When then-Senator Obama picked Biden to be his running mate in 2008, it was Biden's credentials from his years leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was to be his big asset to the administration. But it's domestic issues, not foreign policy that Biden is being given the lead on. Castle says that's because Biden has much more experience wheeling and dealing in Congress compared to Obama.
"I think he has abilities in those areas, and some relationships which are very important," said Castle. "The Obama administration as a whole does not have those same abilities or relationships, either in the Cabinet secretaries or the President himself. He was only there a couple of years, he doesn't know those people that well. Joe does."
For Castle, there is one "tell" that will tip Biden's hand whether he's considering a run or not. That's Biden's famous (and infamous) gift of gab. "He's not the kind of person who plays cute with it, and hides it. So at some point if he decides to do this, we'll all learn about it at the same time. The tell will be Joe standing in front of TV cameras and saying, 'I'm doing it.'"