Former Vice-President Biden to announce political action committee in sign of possible White House bid

Former United States Vice-President Joe Biden delivers the Class Day address at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 24.
Former United States Vice-President Joe Biden delivers the Class Day address at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 24.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – Former Vice President Joe Biden is planning to create a political action committee (PAC), the most concrete sign yet that he intends to remain active in the Democratic Party and is considering a presidential bid in 2020.

The “American Possibilities” PAC, which Biden intends to unveil on Thursday (June 1), will offer the former vice president a platform he can use to nurture relationships with donors, travel on behalf of the party and contribute to candidates in the two governor’s races in November and in next year’s mid-term elections.

He has tapped a former aide in his vice-presidential office and a veteran of President Barack Obama’s White House campaigns, Greg Schultz, to help lead it.

By creating a political organisation, Biden, 74, is also sending an unmistakable message to the many other Democrats eyeing the White House that he is not planning to quietly recede into retirement.

“Biden has a lot of support out there, and this gives him a way to grow that support while also helping Democrats win and build the party,” said Stephanie Cutter, a veteran Democratic strategist who was not privy to the planning of the PAC.

The organisation formalises what has already been apparent from Biden’s schedule: He very much wants to keep open the prospect of seeking the presidency for a third time.

He has already spoken at a dinner fundraiser on behalf of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Next month he will address Florida Democrats, and he has appeared at a handful of high-powered policy gatherings stocked with the sort of donors he would turn to should he seek the White House.

In his public appearances, though, Biden has been careful to hedge when discussing his plans.

Asked at a recent hedge fund conference in Las Vegas about his 2020 plans, he said: “Could I? Yes. Would I? Probably not.”

Democrats who have spoken to Biden say that he is genuinely anguished about the direction of the country under President Donald Trump and that he remains deeply frustrated that Hillary Clinton lost last year in part because the working-class white voters that he prides himself on connecting with abandoned their ancestral party.

At the gathering in Las Vegas, Biden was blunt in his assessment of Clinton.

“I never thought she was a great candidate,” he said. “I thought I was a great candidate.” (He did note that he thought “Hillary would have been a really good president.”)

Biden declined to seek the Democratic nomination in 2016 after an agonising, months-long deliberation in the aftermath of his eldest son’s death. But the former vice president, who ran for president in 1988 and 2008, has not forsaken his long-running ambition. He retains a small coterie of advisers, and they are said to be divided over whether Biden should run once more.

In a Medium post by Biden that is to publish on Thursday, he explains the name of the PAC.

“Thinking big is stamped into the DNA of the American soul,” he writes. “That’s why the negativity, the pettiness, the small-mindedness of our politics today drives me crazy.”

It is time, Biden adds, “for big dreams and American possibilities.”