When Joe Biden addressed the national dinner for the Human Rights Campaign on Saturday night, he found himself at a familiar juncture.
Speaking at the same dinner three years ago, he was grappling with a decision to make a late entrance in the 2016 presidential race mere months after the passing of his son Beau.
The circumstances are different this time around (it’s earlier in the process), but he is still mulling whether a third run for the White House could be the charm as he starts a campaign blitz for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections.
Biden, who ran failed bids in 1988 and 2008, has publicly said he’ll decide about 2020 by January, a time frame that sources close to the former vice president say mirrors his private discussions. But as he travels across the country, including to key presidential battleground states, his longtime network of loyal donors and operatives are watching and waiting for signs that he is inching toward a presidential run.
“He certainly feels the push from people who want him to run, so of course it’s there,” one Biden adviser said. “But in terms of the nuts and bolts of planning his time and thinking of what he’s doing, he’s focused on how he can be of most help to the Democratic Party.”
Biden took direct aim at President Donald Trump on Saturday night, noting that “forces of intolerance remain determined to undermine and roll back the progress you have made.”
“Instead of using the full might of the executive branch to secure justice, dignity, and safety for all, the President uses the White House as a literal, literal bully pulpit, callously exerting his power over those who have little or none,” he said.
Crisscrossing the country
He kicked off his midterm campaign sprint by literally running through a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh alongside union workers — a group at the heart of his blue-collar, middle-class message.
“I’ve been with these guys my whole life,” Biden said. “These are the guys that brung me to the dance, as the saying goes.”
In the first week of October, Biden will make a three-day swing to California and Nevada to raise money and hold public events, including a likely stop with Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen in Nevada, a source with knowledge of the plans tells CNN. Democrats see a real pickup opportunity in Rosen’s race against incumbent GOP Sen. Dean Heller.
It’s all part of Biden’s push to be one of the most active Democratic surrogates on the trail this fall with the pace of his campaigning picking up in October. His team says he’s squarely focused on getting Democrats elected in 2018 — but nearly everywhere he goes questions about 2020 loom.