Why Joe Biden Isn't Being Coy About Running for President

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In American politics, prospective candidates are never supposed to express unbridled enthusiasm and firm commitment to run too early in an election cycle, for fear of looking over eager or perhaps just peaking too soon. The way you're supposed to run for President, for instance, is to quietly make trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, campaign for a local Iowa candidate or two on a weekend, hire a few staffers and of course wait as long as you can before you actually declare you're running.

That is, unless you're Joe Biden and 2008 is your last shot at the presidency. The longtime Delaware Senator, who ran for President during the 1988 campaign but dropped out before the Iowa caucuses after admitting he borrowed parts of a speech from a member of the British Parliament, is having one more go at the top job, and he's doing it boldly, following nobody's rules but his own. "The other guys are allegedly making up their minds," Biden told TIME last week." I've been around too long to be coy. My objective is to run." He'll spend 15 days in August in Iowa, going to the state fair (he prefers funnel cakes to fried Twinkies), speaking to the trial lawyers association there and campaigning for gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver and other Democrats on the ticket. And when he's not in Iowa, he'll still be running for President. Biden's schedule in August includes attending fundraisers around the country and a trip to South Carolina, another key early primary state, to give a speech to the NAACP.

There's some obvious reasons why Biden may have a hard time winning the presidential nomination. No sitting Senator has been elected President since John F. Kennedy in 1960, and Biden isn't just any Senator; the 63-year-old has spent almost his entire adult life in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body, coming in at age 30. He's very much a creature of Washington and often sounds like it when he's delivering long-winded answers on Sunday talk shows. He'll also have the problem of being a Northeastern liberal Senator, with a voting record that according to National Journal, a non-partisan D.C policy magazine, is very similar to Hillary Clinton's; however Biden, as a noted foreign policy hawk, doesn't have the perception of being as liberal as Clinton.

Other times the problem isn't how he says things, but what he says. Biden is known for his occasionally bizarre questioning of witnesses at hearings, most notably the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito last winter. Biden riffed about his dislike of Princeton, Alito's alma mater, one day, then donned a Princeton cap the next day and said he was okay with the school. More recently, on a trip to New Hampshire last month, he noted "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent," while attempting to note the growing clout of Indian-Americans in his state.

Even if Hillary Clinton doesn't run, there so many candidates likely to enter the race that it could be difficult for anyone to stand out in this field — or raise money. John Edwards is currently getting the most buzz among the 2008 potential candidates, but ex-Virginia Governor Mark Warner, Senator John Kerry, and a bevy of other governors and senators will be running. Biden has acknowledged raising money could be a problem, particularly as some of the other candidates have already run national races or have wider contacts in the fundraising circuit. Kerry and Warner have been perhaps the most aggressive in raising money — and parceling it out to congressional candidates. Warner recently donated $10,000 to the PAC of Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus who is unopposed this year, but could help Warner win crucial black support in 2008. Taking a slightly different approach to building up support and endorsements, Indiana's Evan Bayh is hiring two dozen staffers to work on other congressional and state legislature campaigns in Iowa.

Biden, however, thinks 2008 just might be his time because of how foreign policy, his longtime focus, has become the dominant issue in the past two elections. He's been to Iraq and Afghanistan many times over the last several years, unlike many of the other candidates, and he won't have to spend time brushing up on military and diplomatic matters like the governors. In fact, Biden was on the short list to be Secretary of State if John Kerry had won the presidential race in 2004. "This may be the year to be a Senator rather than a governor because there's so much going on in the world," Biden said. And for better or for worse, he's making no secret of his desire to be that senator.