Is Joe Biden Certain to Run Again? Perhaps Not

THE WASHINGTON ECHO CHAMBER is about to get a jolt this morning: the widely read Politico reported during the night that Joe Biden is not certain to seek re-election — as several Democrats keep their options open, ready to move if he doesn’t run.

DEADLINES HAVE SLIPPED for a Biden announcement; his aides report that a final decision may not come until April or even later.

FOR MOST OF LAST YEAR, we thought Biden would not run, largely because he would be 86 years old at the end of a second term. The job takes a toll; it’s incredibly stressful. Despite a relatively clean bill of health earlier this month at the Walter Reed Medical Center, Biden’s gait appears to be increasingly frail; he fell again while boarding a plane yesterday.

MOST WASHINGTON INSIDERS think the odds are 80-20 that Biden will run, especially since his job approval rating has improved and may go higher in the wake of his bold trip to Kyiv. Yet a clear majority of Democrats don’t want him to run again.

SO BIDEN STILL HAS NOT MADE A FINAL DECISION — he’s famously indecisive — and the Politico piece made it clear that several Democrats are keeping their powder dry. If Biden decides not to run, the spotlight would shine on these four Democrats:

Kamala Harris: She generated favorable publicity earlier this month for blasting Russia for crimes against humanity, and has finally shown some gravitas recently in media interviews. A woman of color automatically would be a contender, but Harris would face many challengers.

Joe Manchin: The West Virginia maverick is likely to lose his 2024 Senate race, and he has never been subtle about his desire for the presidency. If Biden doesn’t run, Manchin almost certainly would enter the race, despite his deep unpopularity in the party’s liberal wing.

Bernie Sanders, 81, still wants to be president and he would be a near-certain candidate if Biden doesn’t run. Sanders, the angry Socialist, has tremendous grass-roots support, and Elizabeth Warren will focus on her Senate campaign, so there’s an open lane for Sanders.

Gavin Newsom: He’s just one of a half-dozen governors who are ready to run if Biden steps down. Newsom may be too liberal — with too much baggage — to win a general election, but he can tap Silicon Valley for millions in campaign contributions.

OTHER GOVERNORS TO WATCH are Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Gerald Polis of Colorado and Roy Cooper of North Carolina. Other potential candidates would include Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, although the latter attracts bad publicity like velcro.

BOTTOM LINE: Speculation about Biden’s plans will become a dominant issue in this town, starting today. The odds favor him running again, but that’s far from certain. There’s a reason why so many Democrats are preparing to run — just in case Biden calls it quits, which cannot be ruled out.

Related: Even Donald Trump Agrees: Joe Biden Won the Week

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