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The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

Joe Biden Is the Most Popular Presidential Candidate Despite Not Actually Being One

A new poll finds that Joe Biden has the edge in the 2016 presidential race, even though he's not actually running for president.

by Drew Millard
Sep 30 2015, 12:20am

Vice President Joe Biden visits the VICE office. Photo by Ben Ritter

Vice President Joe Biden has not yet made a decision on whether he will run for president in 2016. (Trust us, you'll know when he makes up his mind). But a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal might help America's chill uncle make up his mind, suggesting that the 72-year-old Biden would be the most popular candidate in the 2016 presidential race if were he to run.

The survey (which can be viewed in full here) tested Biden against the 2016 Democratic field, as well as in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups with the Republican Party's 2016 frontrunners. And statistically, the Vice President's likability ratings were higher than any candidate currently running for president: 40 percent of Americans surveyed said that they had a positive view of Biden, while just 28 percent said their impression was negative.

Of course, it's easy to get people to like you if you're not running for president. And being a candidate usually means that people will like you less. So the fact that Biden isn't actually running has almost certainly helped his numbers. And if he actually does decide to run, his popularity will almost certainly falter.

The fact that Biden is not an official presidential candidate hasn't stopped him from acting like one. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out Tuesday, since the beginning of the month, "Mr. Biden has held events with nearly every Democratic constituency that would be critical to any White House bid."

The Journal continued:

Since Sept. 2, Mr. Biden has held an event about combating sexual assault on women at a college in the presidential battleground state of Ohio, marched in a Labor Day parade with union leaders in Pennsylvania and highlighted economic concerns in Michigan.

He has attended a solar-energy conference with environmentalists in California, addressed proponents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and attended a breakfast with the Congressional Black Caucus.

He has also hosted a social gathering for Latinos at the vice-presidential residence, and addressed influential Jewish American leaders at a synagogue in Atlanta and a community center in Florida.

Today, Biden travelled to New York City to meet with world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, where he charmed the Danish Foreign Minister into calling him "Mr. President." "Well, could have been! Could be! Well, who knows? If there's something you'd like to tell us," the minister, Kristian Jensen, chuckled. He'll continue the non-campaign campaign Thursday, with a live-streamed speech at the Concordia Summit; on Saturday, he'll be the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign gala.


Watch Joe Biden talk climate change with VICE News:


He has also started ramping up his media presence, sitting down for an interview with CNN at the beginning of September, and appearing as one of the first guests on Stephen Colbert's The Late Show. Speaking with Colbert, Biden admitted that he's still dealing with the death of his son Beau, who passed away earlier this year at age 46, and said that he didn't think he would be able to run unless he felt he had healed emotionally.

"I don't think any man or woman should run for President," Biden told Colbert in a tearful interview. "Unless number one, they know exactly why they would want to be President, and two, they can look at the folks out there and say, 'I promise you you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy and my passion to do this.' And I'd be lying if I said I knew I was there."

Similarly, he told CNN, "The most relevant factor in my decision is whether my family and I have the emotional energy to run."

While the clock is obviously ticking for Biden to make his decision. CNN, for one, is practically begging him to run. The network, which will host the first Democratic primary debate next month, announced Monday that they have changed amended their criteria for participating in the forum: Now, any individual who is polling above one percent will be allowed on stage, as long as they promise to declare their candidacy by October 14—the day after the debate. That means that hypothetically, Biden could show up in Las Vegas on October 13, and disrupt the entire affair—which would obviously be great for ratings.

Election Class of 2016: Why America Is Waiting for Joe Biden

If he runs, Biden's chief opponent would be his former Obama administration colleague Hillary Clinton, whose campaign has been mired in a scandal over the private email server that she used to conduct business as Secretary of State. Just last week, the State Department announced that it had uncovered new emails that had not been turned over by Clinton's lawyers, suggesting that Emailgate is unlikely to die down any time soon. Nevertheless, Clinton remains the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, with a more than ten-point lead over any rival, including Joe Biden, in national polls.

Biden, for what it's worth, has found an unlikely cheerleader in Dick Cheney, who said in a recent CNN appearance, "I'd love to see Joe get in the race. I think there's a lot of support for him in the Democratic Party. I think it would stir things up."

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