Exploring a presidential campaign, Vice President Joe Biden is presenting himself as a natural heir to President Barack Obama's policies, previewing his potential pitch to voters during a trip to the crucial swing state of Florida.
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Vice President Joe Biden talks to students and guests Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, at Miami Dade College in Miami. Vice President Biden traveled to Florida to support Senate Democrats and the administration's education agenda. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)[/caption]
Biden planned to outline the Obama administration's role in brokering a nuclear agreement with Iran during a meeting with Jewish leaders in South Florida on Thursday morning. It would follow a robust defense of Obama's work to address middle-class economics and college affordability during a Wednesday stop at a Miami community college.
"We find ourselves on the verge right now of a potential for an economic renaissance in this country. It's not because of Barack Obama and Joe Biden," the vice president said, adding: "There's a reason for it. We are better positioned than any other nation in the world ... to be the leading economic power in the 21st century."
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As Biden considers a late entry into the Democratic primaries, he faces a field that has been dominated by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who often credits Obama for helping rescue the nation from recession, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose anti-establishment message has emphasized economic inequality.
Clinton has locked up much of the Democratic establishment and few expected Biden to enter the race. But Clinton's recent slide in primary polls and questions surrounding her use of a private email account and server while at the State Department have prompted Biden's deliberations.
If Biden joined the field, he would be most closely associated with Obama, who maintains strong support among rank-and-file Democrats. But the vice president has also signaled that he would seek to champion progressive policies, meeting recently with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of liberals, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
On Monday, Biden will join Trumka at Labor Day events in Pittsburgh.
In Miami, Biden raised money for the Senate Democrats' campaign arm but did not address his 2016 plans, according to two donors who attended the event. The donors, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Biden's remarks at the private fundraiser, said the vice president spoke of the need to elect more Democrats to the Senate and offered a lengthy defense of the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran.
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The donors said Biden did not touch upon Clinton's campaign but praised Sanders for doing a good job energizing the party. The dinner to benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was attended by several Clinton fundraisers.
Earlier, Biden brushed off shouted questions from reporters on whether he plans to seek the presidency, but offered up one piece of advice at Miami Dade College that was ripe for interpretation.
"People who aren't willing to risk failing never succeed," Biden said, citing the courage of older students who go back to school to learn new skills and pursue advanced degrees.
His speech included nods to his work with Obama to address economic disparity, rebuild roads and bridges and help workers learn new skills.
Biden talked at length about the president's proposal to spend billions of dollars to cover the cost of two years of community college for eligible students. The plan, which has stalled in the Republican-controlled Congress, would eliminate tax provisions that benefit the wealthiest individuals to pay for the $60 billion price tag. Biden was eager to defend it.
"Let me say this clearly to the press, I can hardly wait ... to debate my friends" about the tax proposal, he said. As he was discussing it, what appeared to be a butterfly flew over the audience, prompting Biden to exclaim, "The butterfly agrees with me!"
He also planned to defend the Iran agreement before Jewish voters in the South Florida congressional district of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee who has yet to take a firm position on the plan. Later in the day, Biden was speaking in Atlanta about the administration's work to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and its overarching foreign policy agenda.
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Biden is expected to make a decision within a month. Democrats close to the vice president have said his recent discussions have focused on whether his family would be ready to pursue a third presidential campaign only months after the death of the vice president's son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. The preparations have also centered on whether Biden might have a plausible path to victory after Clinton and Sanders have been campaigning and raising money since last spring.
Biden, meanwhile, is well aware that his every move is being closely watched. During a tour of a biotechnology lab at the Miami college on Wednesday, a student asked the vice president if he wanted to join in her work. He quickly demurred.
"I'm going to watch," Biden joked, looking at the press corps. "I can see the press headline: 'Biden screws up experiment.'"