WASHINGTON (AFP/REUTERS) - Inspired in part by his late son, US Vice-President Joe Biden is actively exploring a possible presidential run, a move which would jolt the Democratic field and its frontrunner Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Traditionally, a Democrat would not take on a fellow party member who was leading the field decisively – and Biden has not done so officially.
Still, “Biden’s advisers have started to reach out to Democratic leaders and donors who have not yet committed to Mrs Clinton, or who have grown concerned about what they see as her increasingly visible vulnerabilities as a candidate,” the Times reported.
Also Saturday, Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported that Biden had been holding meetings at his residence, “talking to friends, family and donors about jumping in” to challenge Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states.
The former first lady, ex-US senator and former secretary of state – an attorney by training – is sometimes criticised as being lawyerly and evasive.
She has also is seen as somewhat vulnerable after controversy over her use of her personal e-mail for State Department correspondence, and for having deleted 30,000 e-mails then wiping her personal server clean.
Biden has said publicly he will make a decision at the end of the summer.
According to the Times' Dowd: "The 72-year-old Vice-President has been having meetings at his Washington residence to explore the idea of taking on Hillary in Iowa and New Hampshire."
Dowd cited a conversation in which Beau Biden, a former attorney-general of Delaware who was dying of cancer at the time, tried to get his father to promise he would run. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in May at age 46.
The Vice-President's younger son, Hunter, also encouraged him to seek the presidency, the Times said.
Dowd, who has often been critical of Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, said a campaign by Biden might be complicated for Biden because he has a good relationship with Hillary Clinton and respects the Democratic Party's desire to put a woman in the White House.
Biden sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008.
Seventeen Republicans are officially seeking the party’s presidential nomination, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush and conservative Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Five Democrats have declared so far that they are seeking their party’s presidential nomination: Clinton, Vermont’s independent Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, former Virginia senator Jim Webb and former senator and governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.
Clinton leads rival Democrats with 55 per cent support among Democratic voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. Sanders is second with 17 per cent, while Biden – even undeclared – earns 13 per cent.
The White House had no immediate comment on Biden's plans.