When Joe Biden traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, last week, he did so under the auspices of an official trip to stress infrastructure development — but as there was no planned project to announce, speculation grew that the vice president is still considering a run for the Democrat nomination.
"People have been asking, why would we be going through the South? As we project out over the next 30 years, our nation is going to grow by 70 million people. Many of those people are going to be moving to the South," said Transportation Secretary Andrew Foxx in response to questions raised about whether there was a political angle to the trip, reports Bloomberg News
The Democratic National Committee said there were no political events planned during the visit, but presidential politics was not far from the surface.
"You need to run," former South Carolina Democrat Party chairman Dick Harpootlian told Biden, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Biden simply responded: "We'll talk."
While the trip was official in nature, it marks the latest visit to the early primary state by Biden. In October, he headlined a $5,000 per couple fundraising event hosted by Harpootlian, and last May delivered the commencement address at the University of South Carolina and attended another fundraiser, reports The State
To date, Biden has kept his plans close to his vest, although he conceded in a January interview with ABC News there was a "chance" he would take on Hillary Clinton.
"Yes, there is a chance. But I haven't made my mind up about that. We've got a lot of work to do between now and then. There's plenty of time," Biden told ABC News's George Stephanopoulos in an interview
on "Good Morning America" after the State of the Union.
"I think this is wide open on both sides. Right now my focus is getting implemented what the president talked about last night: to nail down this recovery and get the middle class back in the game," said the former Delaware senator, who has said he plans to make a decision by the end of the summer.
Biden's official travel schedule leaves little to the imagination. In recent weeks, Biden, 72, has stopped in the crucial caucus state of Iowa and this week has a planned visit to New Hampshire, reports The Wall Street Journal.
"The minute you do that it becomes a shadow campaign. I don't think it is a coincidence that he is coming to Iowa as opposed to, say, Arizona, where I assume they also have community colleges," Sara Riley, a lawyer and former staffer for Biden's 2008 campaign, told CNN
Biden, who waged an unsuccessful bid for the Democrat nomination in 2008, remains behind Clinton by an average of 45.6 percentage points, according to a RealClearPolitics aggregate of polls
taken since December 2014.
Despite the increased travel to early primary and caucus states, advisers say Biden is content to lay low out of concern that any hint of an announcement will undermine the administration.
"He's hamstrung. He's limited in what he can do without hurting the president. It's a difficult balancing act," Harpootlian told The Associated Press
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