(LONDON GUARDIAN) — Among recent pilgrims to the Arizona ranch of Senator John McCain was Joe Biden. The Republican, who has an aggressive form of brain cancer, urged the former vice-president to “not walk away” from politics, Biden told the New York Times. It did not take much imagination to see this as a metaphorical shove – into the next race for the White House.
Biden has the desire, the pedigree – and the rage. On Friday, incensed by reports that a White House aide had dismissed McCain with the terse comment “he’s dying anyway”, the 75-year-old Democrat let rip, declaring that decency in the administration had finally hit “rock bottom.”
It was just the latest evidence that Biden is spoiling for a fight with Donald Trump. Whereas Barack Obama has maintained a zen-like calm even as his legacy is eviscerated, Biden has taken the gloves off, hammering the president’s policies and personal conduct, even suggesting that he would like to “beat the hell out of” Trump over his crude remarks about women.
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But in 2020 he would be up against the most competitive and crowded Democratic field in many years. The point will be brought home on Tuesday, when the Center for American Progress in Washington hosts potential contenders including senators Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Murphy, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as the former housing secretary Julián Castro and New York mayor Bill de Blasio.
Bill Galston, a former policy adviser to Bill Clinton, said: “There are three lanes to look at. In lane one, there is ‘Bernie-lite’, which could be Bernie himself. In lane two, there are people who think, for a variety of reasons, that’s not the right way for the Democratic party to go and we ought to be 21st-century reformers.