Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts

Will Joe Biden Run?

Will Joe Biden run for president? An answer to that question should come by fall, and meanwhile, Team Biden will be weighing the arguments for and against another campaign.

Here's what their pro-con list might look like, starting with the positives:

-- The dream never dies. While Biden never came close in his first two runs for the presidency, his drive has apparently not dulled with age. Remember the adage of the late congressman Mo Udall: "Presidential ambition is a disease which can only be cured by embalming fluid."

Biden has occupied a White House office for close to seven years. He's inhaled the incense of ultimate power. And he must look at the commotion caused by Sen. Bernie Sanders' upstart effort and say, "Really? Bernie Sanders? Why not me?"

-- The satellite circle. The candidate is not the only one with persistent presidential ambitions. Friends and family, staffers and supporters -- they all have a stake in his success. Biden's son Beau reportedly urged his father to run again when he was dying from cancer in May.

After Beau's death, some of the condolence calls the vice president received reinforced that plea. Those cheerleaders could provide an initial campaign network to get him started.

-- Hillary Clinton's weaknesses. These conversations would not be happening if Clinton's campaign had gotten off to a better start. But her vulnerabilities as a candidate are clearly visible. That's why 17 Republicans are running: They think she's beatable. And some Democrats are worried they're right.

In recent polls, her unfavorable rating has jumped to an average of 48 percent, with only 43 percent viewing her positively. A CNN survey shows only 47 percent believing she "cares about people like you," an enduring and critical problem.

Clinton's camp understands the importance of this question, which is why her first TV ads focus on her mother, Dorothy Rodham, who struggled to build a life after leaving home as a teenager. As Clinton adviser Jennifer Palmieri told the Washington Post, the ads are aimed at convincing voters that Dorothy's daughter "understands what your life is like, that she understands your problems."

-- Biden's strengths. He's a genuinely nice man. He's more authentic and believable than Clinton, with a better chance of conveying the message that he "understands your problems." And he's a Catholic from Pennsylvania, with deep appeal to working-class voters in key Rust Belt states. (And in Florida, where he's long been popular with Jewish voters.)

There are plenty of negatives, too:

-- Age. Biden would be 74 on Inauguration Day, more than four years older than Ronald Reagan, the oldest president. The average age for our first 44 presidents was not quite 55. Two leading Republican candidates, senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, are younger than Beau Biden was when he died.

-- History. It's very difficult for a sitting vice president to win on his own. Just ask Al Gore. All administrations pick up scars, and voters yearn for a change. Before George Bush "41" succeeded Reagan in 1988, the last incumbent veep to accomplish the feat was Martin Van Buren in 1836.

-- Timing. Clinton is far ahead when it comes to raising money and building an organization. Even some longtime Bidenites have signed on with her. Obama adviser David Axelrod told NBC that Team Biden must face "a real big reality check here" when it comes to mounting a serious challenge. "I know what it takes put a presidential campaign together and it is late in the game," he said.

-- Rationale. What is Biden's reason for running, beyond personal ambition? He and Clinton belong to the same generation. They served in the same administration. They espouse the same pragmatically progressive views. They both boast vast foreign policy experience. They even trace their roots to the same Pennsylvania town (Scranton). So why Joe?

-- Risk. There's one characteristic they don't share: gender. And Biden risks being blamed for blocking the first female president. Sure, a stiff primary challenge can toughen and sharpen a candidate for the general election. It can also drain time and resources away from the eventual nominee and provide her opponents with plenty of ammunition. And if he fails, does Biden want to be remembered as a three-time loser?

If Biden and his advisers are honest with themselves, they will conclude that the arguments against running far outweigh the positives. But emotions always play a big role in these decisions, and he could still decide to defy reason and roll the dice one last time.

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