Over the holiday weekend, The New York Times revealed that the normally quiet former vice president, Joe Biden, has been amassing a complex 2020 campaign operation, ready to spring into action as soon as Biden officially announces his candidacy.
Biden has long been at the top of early 2020 polls, measuring Democratic enthusiasm for the 30 or so potential candidates who will vie for the party's presidential nomination. In a recent poll from USA Today, Biden ranks second, just below "someone new," who isn't likely to come along in the next two years. He's trailed by Bernie Sanders — who is already on the outs with the national Democratic party — and Beto O'Rourke, the Texas Democratic Representative who lost to Ted Cruz in the 2018 senate election in that state.
There are concerns, of course. The newly woke Democratic Party would be loathe to admit that their best chance against sitting President Donald Trump is an older white man with a history of moderate leanings, rather than a minority or female candidate who tends toward the progressive end of the spectrum.
Biden also has his drawbacks: age (he'll be nearly 80 by the time the 2020 election rolls around), his history of gaffes, and a long senate record that includes defending Clarence Thomas from sexual harassment accuser Anita Hill and voting for several of then-President Bill Clinton's moderate reforms, including the controversial 1994 crime bill — a tough-on-crime measure that had a disproportionate affect on minority communities, and dogged even Hillary Clinton during her 2016 run.
But what Biden lacks in on-paper appeal — at least to today's "progressive" party — he's made up for in logistics.
According to The New York Times, Biden has spent these last two years carefully amassing his own personal war chest, commanding upwards of $100,000 per speech and appearing regularly on college campuses and at corporate events. Moreover, he's been placing some of his most trusted aides at the helm of Biden-affiliated super-PACs, research centers and think tanks, creating an under-the-radar campaign apparatus that can roar to life the minute he officially declares.
Biden has, The New York Times reports, built "a network of nonprofits and academic centers that are staffed by his closest strategists and advisers, many making six figures while working on the issues most closely identified with him. It has effectively become a campaign-in-waiting, poised to metamorphose if the 76-year-old Mr. Biden announces his third bid for the presidency."
The list includes former top advisers, his successor in the senate, his director of policy while vice president, his former Chief of Staff, a handful of Obama administration alumni, and several longtime strategists who help plot his rise to the senate and then to the Executive Office Building.
"At least 49 staff or board members of the various Biden entities worked previously as aides or advisers to Mr. Biden, or held other positions in the Obama-Biden administration or campaigns. Their salaries and stipends consume a substantial share of the budgets of the six groups, including the philanthropic ones," The New York Times reports.
Those staffers — and those organizations — will quickly shift to campaign-affiliated organizations, or swap staff with a central campaign, allowing Biden's top advisers, staff, and strategists to hit the ground running and build an immediate national campaign, something less experienced candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) won't have.
The rest will still be toiling in Iowa.