Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate

When Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE enters the presidential race next month, it’s not a given that the former vice president will have a ton of support from his old Senate colleagues.

Biden served in the Senate for 36 years, but his time only overlaps with 18 Democrats who are still in the upper chamber. Nearly 30 Democrats, most a generation younger than Biden, have never served a day with the former chairman of the Judiciary and Foreign Relations panels.

He’ll also be squaring off against a half dozen current senators — including Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) — who have forged their own relationships in the upper chamber.

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“It’s a different Senate today. The challenge for him will be there are so many new senators and where that center of gravity lands, I think it’s too early to tell,” said Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Democratic senators kneel during moment of silence for George Floyd MORE (D-N.M.), who arrived in the Senate in 2013, four years after Biden had left to become vice president.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” said Heinrich, who is 47. “My bias is that we have this new, incredible generation of leadership and that in 2020, my hope is that the race will reflect that and I would like to see the nominee reflect that.”

To date, Biden has secured endorsements from three Democratic senators: Biden’s two home-state senators, Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate subcommittee: IRS should increase oversight of tax-prep companies in Free File program Senate report: Chinese telecom firms operated in US without proper oversight for decades House Judiciary seeks briefing on Trump order to slash regs to assist the economy MORE and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMnuchin indicates openness to more PPP loans in next COVID-19 relief bill Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Steve Clemons interviews Michelle McMurry-Heath Republicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks MORE of Delaware, plus Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos GOP votes to give Graham broad subpoena power in Obama-era probe MORE (Calif.), who served with Biden on the Judiciary Committee when he was chairman. Freshman Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) also has been publicly encouraging Biden to run.

All four senators have lavished praise on the former vice president even though he still hasn’t officially entered the race. In January, Feinstein went as far as saying: “My candidate would be Joe Biden.”

But many others on Capitol Hill are not rushing to endorse Biden, who could face the same problems that plagued then-New York Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE in 2008 when she was the front-runner against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHarris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Five ways America would take a hard left under Joe Biden Valerie Jarrett: ‘Democracy depends upon having law enforcement’ MORE.

Back then, Clinton was taken aback when her Senate colleagues — many of whom she had known for years — turned their backs on her and supported Obama, at the time a senator from Illinois. The toughest blow for Clinton may have been when the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.) endorsed Obama, but she felt betrayed by other senators like Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: ‘Millions of Americans’ want someone other than Trump, Biden MORE (Mo.), who chose to support Obama instead.

The 76-year-old Biden could be put in a similar situation.

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“There may be quite a few senators who vote with their hearts,” said one longtime Senate aide, adding that it will be an “uphill climb” for Biden.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he and Biden are “friends” but that he has not heard from the vice president in awhile.

“You know what, I don’t know,” Blumenthal said when asked if he plans to endorse anyone.

The other senator from Connecticut, Democrat Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyState, city education officials press Congress for more COVID-19 funds The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump takes victory lap in morning news conference Pelosi demands Trump clarify deployment of unidentified law enforcement in DC MORE, campaigned with Biden in Hartford last fall and worked with him on gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012. But with so many current Senate colleagues running, Murphy said he’ll probably steer clear of an endorsement.  

“I have great admiration for him. I think everybody who joins the field makes it better and stronger,” Murphy said of Biden. “He brings a national security background that I think will challenge the rest of the field to step up their game.

But he added: “I have lots of friends running, so I would be foolish to wade in. It’s a no-brainer for me.”

Biden has been in touch with members of the Senate.

Murphy said he recently spoke with Biden on some policy matters but did not discuss the presidential race. Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick Casey21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests Overnight Health Care: Trump says US ‘terminating’ relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), who is close to Biden and represents the state where he was born, has been in contact with him in recent weeks. And Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate confirms Trump’s watchdog for coronavirus funds Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE (D-Mont.), who briefly overlapped with Biden in the Senate, said he called his former colleague two weeks ago to catch up on his likely White House bid and other issues.

Asked if he was encouraging Biden to run, Tester replied: “I certainly would not discourage him. Joe’s a good friend.”

The change in the Senate “has been generational,” Tester said, “but he still has a lot of old friends.”

Across the Capitol in the House, support for Biden has been hit or miss. Behind the scenes, he’s been reaching out to a select group of lawmakers and asking for their endorsements.

Biden’s longtime adviser Steve Richetti also has been making calls to shore up support. Ricchetti even invited Rep. Don Beyer, the former Virginia lieutenant governor and a key House fundraiser, over to his home for dinner recently, though Beyer described the evening as two old friends catching up rather than a Biden pitch for president.

But the Biden calls and invites aren’t going out to everyone.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsThe sad spectacle of Trump’s enablers Democrat Kweisi Mfume wins House primary in Maryland Key races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries MORE (D-Md.) has known Biden for decades but said he hasn’t spoken to him “in years.” Another veteran Democrat, Rep. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayCalls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Pence visits Orlando as all 50 states reopen The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Mnuchin, Powell: Economy may need more boost; Trump defends malaria drug MORE (Mo.), hasn’t heard directly from Biden either, though he’s been in touch with two other 2020 hopefuls, Harris and Booker, his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

“They serve in the Congress with me and in the CBC, so I am considering both of them,” Clay told The Hill. “They both seem to be doing pretty well out there on the campaign trail as far as attracting crowds, speaking to the issues that Americans care about.”

One of Biden’s strongest arguments in a Democratic primary is the idea that he can beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE in states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania that turned away from Democrats in 2016.

It’s not hard to imagine Biden being a favored candidate among House lawmakers representing swing districts that Trump won in the last presidential election.

At the same time, there’s reason for House liberals to think twice about backing Biden, who supported the Iraq War and whose chairmanship of the Anita Hill hearings during Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation process has come under new scrutiny.

Rep. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelGloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Pence visits Orlando as all 50 states reopen MORE (D-Fla.), co-chair of the bipartisan Women’s Caucus, said she’ll be backing a woman in 2020, though she hasn’t decided which one.

“In my heart … we have so many good women running for president, I would like to see one of them make it,” Frankel told The Hill.

“Kamala Harris, Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Warren, Pressley introduce bill to make it a crime for police officers to deny medical care to people in custody Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers MORE, [Minnesota Sen.] Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE, Elizabeth Warren — I would support any of them. Tulsi’s running too,” she said, referring to Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process 125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic MORE (D-Hawaii). 

Some Biden allies said they don’t put too much stock in the congressional endorsement game. Clinton had overwhelming support among her former Senate colleagues in 2016, yet Sanders mounted a stronger-than-expected challenge in the primary that year, Carper recalled.

And Hill surrogates aren’t always on message. A close Biden friend for four decades, Carper played a practical joke on a reporter from The Hill who asked whether Biden was close to jumping in.

“I heard this morning that he’s getting cold feet and that his wife has had second thoughts. And you know what they say in the Biden household: Happy wife, happy life,” Carper said with a serious expression. “I expect him to announce that he’s not going to run.”

“Are you joking?” the reporter replied.

A wide smile appeared on Carper’s face: “It’s not a joke; it’s an outright lie.”

The senior senator from Delaware said he knows the entire gaggle of senators running for president very well, adding that there are no bad feelings given his early Biden endorsement.

“In that gathering,” Carper said, “there are a lot of terrific potential vice presidential candidates.”

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