It's less than three years now before the first presidential primary elections of 2016. Anyone who wants to be a serious candidate in those primaries will need to start organizing a campaign soon.
My home state of Delaware knows Vice President Joseph Biden well. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware in 1972 when he was only 29 years old. Delaware voters re-elected him six times to additional six-year terms in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008.
Delaware is a small state consisting of a single congressional district. Most voters who have lived here more than a few years can tell personal stories about Joe Biden and their contacts with him. Senator Biden has demonstrated his desire for higher office by twice campaigning for President in 1988 and again twenty years later in 2008, before accepting the nomination for Vice President. He resigned from the U.S. Senate in 2009 upon his inauguration as Vice President.
No one who observed Vice President Biden during his and President Obama's recent second inauguration can doubt his interest in at least keeping all his options open for 2016. Stepping out of the motorcade from the Capitol to the White House, the Vice President literally ran to shake as many hands of spectators as he could reach. In contrast, President Obama, who does not expect to ever be a candidate again, made no such exertions during the walking parts of the motorcade.
President Obama's "private" swearing-in on Sunday was attended only by his family and the press. In contrast, Vice President Biden's "private" swearing-in the same day was attended by more than a hundred invited guests, including many from early primary states like New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, and others who will be "superdelegates" at the Democratic nominating convention in 2016.
Both the Vice President's age and the ambitions of Hillary Clinton will be factors affecting his viability as a presidential candidate in 2016. If elected President in 2016, Joe Biden would be 74 on Inauguration Day 2017, and the oldest President ever elected and inaugurated. Ronald Reagan, America's oldest president, was 69 when inaugurated in 1981 and 73 at his second inauguration in 1985. Soon after leaving office, President Reagan was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, and in retrospect, some observers thought that there were symptoms of the disease during his second term. The incidence of that disease and others obviously increases with age.
Hillary Clinton would be only 69 on Inauguration Day 2017, the same age as Reagan at his first inauguration. If Hillary Clinton decides to seek the presidency in 2016, she will have the advantage of being a "first", which proved to be a net plus factor for Barack Obama in 2008.
Joe Biden also has a reputation for gaffes and loquaciousness. Some might argue that's part of his working class charm which helps to humanize him. No one can deny his apparent comfort and common touch as a campaigner.
But the biggest factor affecting Joe Biden's political prospects in 2016 will be President Obama's success, or lack thereof, during his second term. A successful second term, which leaves voters wishing for a third, would be good news for any vice president. Conversely, an unsuccessful second term that leaves voters looking for a change would be an invitation to candidates other than an incumbent vice president.
Vice President Biden has promised to do whatever he can to help President Obama achieve success in their second term. He certainly has every reason to do so.
Jan Ting is a Professor of Law at Temple University's Beasley School of Law and a former Assistant Commissioner for Refugees, Asylum and Parole, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice. Jan can be reached at email@example.com.