Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign is making a noticeable shift in how it talks about the potential campaign of Vice President Joe Biden.
The Democratic front-runner and members of her staff have, to this point, stressed a desire to give Biden time and space to make a decision, as he continues to grieve over the death of his son, Beau, earlier this year.
But on Wednesday, John Podesta, the chair of the Clinton campaign, took a markedly different tone when discussing Biden.
“If Vice President Biden wants to enter and compete for the presidency, then it is time he make that decision,” Podesta told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday. “I think that we will have a healthy and respectful debate amongst friends about the direction of the economy, the direction of foreign policy.”
Biden has flirted for weeks with a potential late entry into the race, admitting to struggling with a final decision amid the lingering grief. Clinton has made a point of publicly saying she wants to leave Biden with room to make his decision, telling NBC’s Savannah Guthrie recently that it was up to Biden to decide what’s best for him and his family.
Mitchell asked Podesta if the Clinton campaign has been sending different signals to Biden and his advisers privately.
“You have sent a pretty strong signal. Have you sent it privately — in more explicit terms — Have you been in touch with people close to the vice president or the vice president himself?” she asked.
Podesta suggested he needed to at least come to a conclusion by the time of the next Democratic debate, which is set for November 14.
“Well, look, I think he’s been through a tremendous tragedy. And we’ve been respectful about that. And I think he deserved the space and the time to think that through about whether that it was best for him to begin this new challenge to try to mount a presidential campaign,” Podesta said.
“But I think the time has come for a decision so that at the next debate, if he does decide to get in, there will be six podiums on the stage.”
Despite some at-times evident prodding by CNN, which hosted the first Democratic debate Tuesday night, Biden did not announce whether he’d enter the race. Instead, according to a spokesperson from his office, he hosted a high-school reunion and watched the debate at his Washington residence.
Clinton earned rave reviews from media and political pundits for her debate performance. Another of Biden’s potential rivals, progressive insurgent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), seemed to impress voters with his performance.
Biden was asked Wednesday what he thought about the debate.
“I thought every one of those folks did well,” he said, according to a White House pool report.
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