WASHINGTON • Vice-President Joe Biden and his associates have begun to actively explore a possible presidential campaign, which would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Mr 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 her increasingly visible vulnerabilities as a candidate.
The conversations, often fielded by Mr Biden's chief of staff, Mr Steve Ricchetti, have been discreet, and in most cases they have grown out of an outpouring of sympathy for Mr Biden, 72, since the death of his son, Beau, 46, in May.
On Saturday, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported that Mr Biden had been holding meetings at his residence, "talking to friends, family and donors about jumping in" to challenge Mrs Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states.
"He was so close to Beau and it was so heartbreaking that, frankly, I thought initially he wouldn't have the heart," longtime Biden supporter Michael Thornton, a Boston lawyer, said. "But I've had indications that maybe he does want to - and 'that's what Beau would have wanted me to do.'"
Mr Biden's path, should he run, would not be easy. Mrs Clinton has enormous support among Democrats and her campaign has raised millions of dollars.
One Democrat with direct knowledge of the conversations described the outreach as a combination of donors and friends of Mr Biden's wanting to prop him up in his darkest hours, and of polls showing Mrs Clinton's support among independents declining.
Ms Dowd reported that Beau Biden "tried to make his father promise to run... the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values" .
Mr Biden could still decide not to run. As of Saturday, he had no trips planned to Iowa or New Hampshire in the coming weeks. But an intermediary recruited by the vice-president's office has been in touch with potential staff members who have not yet signed on to the Clinton campaign.
A 2016 run would be the third time Mr Biden, a longtime senator from Delaware, had sought the presidency, which friends say is his ultimate dream.
NEW YORK TIMES