- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 23, 2015

As the scandal surrounding former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails intensifies, Vice President Joseph R. Biden is quietly laying the groundwork for a possible White House bid, courting key progressives and expanding his circle of advisers and potential supporters.

Mr. Biden’s most ardent backers say he won’t get into the race solely because Mrs. Clinton is faltering and has fumbled questions about whether she intentionally sent or received classified information on her personal email account.

But it’s hard to deny that the ordeal presents an opening for Mr. Biden, who has made gains in recent Democratic presidential primary polls and scores well in hypothetical match-ups against top Republicans.

Over the weekend, Mr. Biden reportedly met with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat and a leading figure on the progressive left. The two met one-on-one at Mr. Biden’s Washington residence, and supporters say the sit-down is proof that the vice president is seeking advice from those outside his usual “inner circle” of family and friends.

“I don’t know what they talked about, but what I do know is the vice president has his core inner circle. And over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen reported … he’s kind of expanding outside that close circle of advisers and family,” Josh Alcorn, a top adviser with the Draft Biden 2016 initiative, told “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s no surprise he would want to talk to someone like” Mrs. Warren, Mr. Alcorn added.

Mr. Biden has said he’ll decide by next month whether to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, which once looked to be little more than an extended coronation of Mrs. Clinton.

But the Democratic front-runner has stumbled after it was revealed Mrs. Clinton exclusively used a private email server during her four years as America’s top diplomat. She also has said that she did not send or receive classified information on that server — claims that have been refuted by investigators.

Mrs. Clinton’s troubles have opened the door for other Democrats. Thus far, Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent seeking the White House as a Democrat, has benefited the most.

Mr. Sanders, an avowed socialist, has gained ground on Mrs. Clinton in national polls and has pulled ahead of her in the key early primary state of New Hampshire, according to at least one survey.

Mr. Biden has come in third place among Democratic primary voters in several recent surveys.

Other Democratic contenders, such as former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, seem to be welcoming Mr. Biden to the race.

In an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. O’Malley took an indirect jab at Mr. Sanders by referring to the vice president as a “lifelong Democrat.”

“I have a great deal of respect for Vice President Biden. He’s a very, very good and decent man. It would be nice to have at least one more lifelong Democrat in the race,” Mr. O’Malley said.

As for Mrs. Clinton’s email troubles, Mr. O’Malley and other candidates largely have avoided the issue, perhaps content to allow the media and Republicans to continue hammering away on the former secretary of state.

“Those are questions that I will leave to her and to her lawyers to answer,” he told ABC when asked about the scandal. “But as a party, we need to wake up and we need to have start having debates about the issues that really matter.”

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