(AP) – Former Vice President Joe Biden is wrapping up a busy stretch of events this week before stepping out of the public eye to hold family deliberations over the holidays on whether to launch another campaign for president, according to multiple people familiar with his thinking.
They spoke on the condition of anonymity because Biden was still weighing his options. With his name recognition and strong connections to Democratic power brokers across the country, Biden would likely enter a presidential contest a top-tier candidate, if not the front-runner. That prospect is creating intense focus around his every move as he approaches a decision.
Biden, 76, was expected in Washington on Wednesday to host two annual holiday receptions with friends, including longtime backers from key early presidential primary states, according to invitees who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private parties. Biden also was expected to meet with some of his longtime political advisers while in Washington.
Former President Barack Obama, who formed a close relationship with Biden during their years in the White House, wasn’t expected to attend the receptions. Obama has met with other potential presidential candidates since midterm elections, including Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas.
After his swing through Washington, Biden will host what was expected to be his final public event of the year on Thursday at a university in Utah.
The moves cap what has been an extraordinarily busy year for Biden. He maintained a packed campaign schedule stumping for Democrats ahead of the midterms, including stops for candidates in the early presidential contest states of Iowa and South Carolina. In all, Biden will have visited 31 states this year, including trips intended to promote a book about his late son.
Biden has done little to dissuade speculation that he’d run for president a third time. Since the midterms, he has held calls and met privately with longtime supporters about what a presidential campaign could look like, according to aides. He declared himself “the most qualified person in the country to be president” during an appearance last week in Montana. At a later event in Vermont, he recalled concerns from his dying son, Beau, that “I’d turn inward, that I’d withdraw from public life.”
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a devout Biden supporter, said Wednesday that Biden would bring unmatched qualifications to the race. He said Biden has the ability to connect with a range of voters Democrats need to win back the White House in 2020, including those in less-typically Democratic territory, where President Donald Trump won in 2016.
“I think he’s probably the best one qualified to do that. He’s been doing it for a long, long time, and I’m hoping to see that,” Jones said during an interview for The Associated Press’ Newsmakers series. “I feel confident there are others as well.”
The reflection ahead for Biden comes at a time when the Democratic presidential field is in flux. As many as two dozen potential candidates could announce intentions to run for president by early next year. Many of those potential contenders are fresh faces in a party eager to move on from its disastrous performance in 2016. O’Rourke, in particular, has emerged as an unlikely force. Many donors and activists are awaiting his decision before declaring allegiance to a candidate.
Biden said last week he expects to decide within two months whether to wage a third campaign for the presidency.
Teri Goodman, a longtime Biden supporter from Dubuque, Iowa, said she met with Biden during his campaign visit to Cedar Rapids in late October.
“We had a good visit. It wasn’t brief,” Goodman said. “He had not made up his mind.”
Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa; Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina. AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace contributed to this report.