- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2015

After keeping a low profile following the death of his son earlier this year, Vice President Joseph R. Biden has re-emerged to become the biggest defender of President Obama’s agenda, selling everything from the administration’s climate change policies to its Detroit bailout and, in the process, making clear he won’t distance himself from the current president in a potential 2016 White House bid.

Political analysts and Democrats in key early primary states such as Iowa say Mr. Biden — who has yet to decide whether he will seek the presidency — is right to embrace the administration’s record, both because it would be difficult, if not impossible, to run away from it, and because Democratic voters haven’t soured on Mr. Obama in the way Republicans turned on former President George W. Bush in 2007 and 2008.

The vice president in recent weeks has made clear he’s willing to tie himself to Mr. Obama on a host of issues. Mr. Biden earlier this month promoted the administration’s nuclear deal with Iran to skeptical Jewish leaders, and this week touted the White House’s ambitious and controversial climate change agenda.

On Thursday he continued that trend, telling a supportive audience in Detroit that the administration was right to bail out the auto industry and make other badly needed investments in the embattled city.

“The idea that we’re not going to do everything in our power to bring back not just a great city but an iconic city in any way we could was not thinkable,” the vice president said. “Because Detroit is like its people: It’s resilient, it’s tough, and it’s defined by the work ethic that is unmatched by anyplace in the world.”

Mr. Biden has said he’s still weighing whether he has the “emotional energy” to mount the third presidential bid of his career. His son, Beau, passed away in May after a lengthy battle with brain cancer, and the vice president largely stayed out of public view over the following months.

Now that he’s back in the spotlight, analysts say there’s still an opening for him in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. National polls consistently show him coming in third among Democratic voters, trailing party front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and avowed socialist.

Should he enter the race, there may be an opportunity down the road to split from Mr. Obama, but for now it would be foolish to go out of his way to create distance, said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes in the presidency and presidential politics.

“He’s a true believer,” Mr. Buchanan said. “I think it’s not too hard for Biden because he buys into most of these policies. Also, he’s not yet fully formed a decision that he’s going to be a candidate. He’s road-testing. It’ll be hard for him to craft an agenda until he makes an internal commitment he’s going to strike out on his own and establish himself.”

In states such as Iowa, which hosts the first contest of the primary season, leading Democrats also say there’s little reason for Mr. Biden or any other Democrat to scorn the president.

“I don’t think that, overall, Democrats are going to want to run away from the Obama record. There’s a lot of positives there,” said Larry Hodgden, chair of the Cedar County, Iowa, Democrats.

But Mr. Hodgden added that, in parts of Iowa, at least, there’s not an overwhelming desire for Mr. Biden to jump into the race.

“I sense a lot of respect for Joe Biden, but I don’t sense a lot of urgency or demand out here,” he said. “We don’t need Joe Biden to get into the race. We’re satisfied with what we’ve got.”

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