Biden Foundation Launches

Twelve days after leaving office, former vice president Joe Biden announced the launch of the Biden Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, it will “build upon Vice President and Dr. Biden’s lifelong commitment to protect and advance the rights and opportunities of all people through educational programming and public policy analysis.”

The statement from Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden:

Wilmington, DE – My dad used to have an expression: “It’s a lucky person who gets up in the morning, puts both feet on the floor, knows what they’re about to do and thinks it still matters.” Jill and I have been very lucky these past decades.  We look forward to this new chapter where we will continue our work to ensure that everyone—no matter their income level, race, gender, age, or sexuality— is treated with dignity and gets a fair shot at achieving the American Dream. That’s why we are honored that a group of long-time friends and supporters have begun the work of founding the Biden Foundation to build on our lifelong commitment to issues that have always motivated us.

The foundation’s work will focus on foreign policy, cancer research, and ending violence against women, and other issues.

One interesting point on the Biden Foundation website: it will not accept donations from foreign citizens, organizations or countries. This is presumably a response to the fundraising practices of the Clinton Foundation which caused so much controversy during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Obama Foundation Hires White House Political Director as CEO

The Obama Foundation announced the hiring of White House political director David Simas as Chief Executive Officer. According to the foundation’s press release, Simas will join the foundation’s leadership team and help work on the creation of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. According to Simas’s biography in the announcement:

A Taunton, Massachusetts native, David Simas received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stonehill College and a doctor of law degree from Boston College Law School. In 2007, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. In 2009, Simas joined the Obama Administration as a Deputy Assistant to the President, working with senior advisors David Axelrod and David Plouffe. He then served as Director of Opinion Research for President Obama’s re-election. Simas most recently served as Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. He lives in Washington with his wife Shauna and two daughters, Payton and Rowan.

Comments from Simas himself, via Twitter:

Obama Says He Will Help Democrats Rebuild After Leaving Office

This comment came up during President Obama’s press conference on Friday. From the White House transcript:

What I’ve said is, is that I can maybe give some counsel and advice to the Democratic Party.  And I think that that the thing we have to spend the most time on — because it’s the thing we have the most control over — is how do we make sure that we are showing up in places where I think Democratic policies are needed, where they are helping, where they are making a difference, but where people feel as if they’re not being heard and where Democrats are characterized as coastal, liberal, latte-sipping, politically-correct, out-of-touch folks.  We have to be in those communities.  And I’ve seen that when we are in those communities, it makes a difference.

That’s how I became President.  I became a U.S. senator not just because I had a strong base in Chicago, but because I was driving around downstate Illinois and going to fish frys and sitting in VFW halls and talking to farmers.  And I didn’t win every one of their votes, but they got a sense of what I was talking about, what I cared about, that I was for working people, that I was for the middle class, that the reason I was interested in strengthening unions, and raising the minimum wage, and rebuilding our infrastructure, and making sure that parents had decent childcare and family leave was because my own family’s history wasn’t that different from theirs, even if I looked a little bit different.  Same thing in Iowa.

And so the question is, how do we rebuild that party as a whole so that there’s not a county in any state — I don’t care how red — that we don’t have a presence and we’re not making the argument.  Because I think we have the better argument.  But that requires a lot of work.  It’s been something that I’ve been able to do successfully in my own campaigns.  It is not something I’ve been able to transfer to candidates in midterms and sort of build a sustaining organization around.  That’s something that I would have liked to have done more of, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’re also dealing with a whole bunch of issues here in the White House.

And that doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t be done.  And I think there are going to be a lot of talented folks out there, a lot of progressives who share my values who are going to be leading the charge in the years to come.

In recent history, the norm has been for the outgoing president to stay quiet (or at the very least, keep a low profile) after leaving office. In addition to the lingering effects of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton left office under a cloud after a controversial series of presidential pardons at the end of his presidency. George W. Bush’s poll numbers were in the low 30s by the time he left office due to a combination of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, and the collapse of the housing market – all three of which happened during his second term. (Caveat: the Iraq war began in Bush’s first term, but the political and security situation on the ground started going south during his second term).

Obama is in a unique position in that he is in a much better situation than his predecessors. President Obama’s approval ratings are in the high 50s – he will leave office with Reagan-esque poll numbers. He is also popular and respected within the Democratic Party, somebody who can appeal to most of the factions vying for control and direction right now as he prepares to leave office four weeks from now. The fact that he was so successful in both his presidential runs means that he has created a model for others to follow – one that Hillary Clinton was not successful at replicating.

He will probably have some say in the form and shape the party take as the opposition for the next few years, though he will probably allow Democrats running for DNC chairman now and the primaries three years from now to let them sort things out for themselves.  He also has a vested interest in rebuilding the party, because Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans’ agenda will consist in large part on trying to undo or erase much of Obama’s legacy – Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, the Paris climate change agreement, etc. Republicans will complain that Obama should give Trump the same courtesy of silence that George W. Bush gave him, but that argument ignores the fact that Dick Cheney was one of his most blistering critics in the opposition.

Keep an eye out for Obama around sometime next spring, after he has presumably taken a long vacation and settled into life as a private citizen again.

Tom Perez Likely to Enter the Fray for DNC Chairman

Politics1 is reporting that outgoing Secretary of Labor Tom Perez will enter the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee:

No other news organization has confirmed this as of this writing.  If this reporting is accurate, Perez would presumably have to resign from his cabinet position in the immediate future so he can begin the process of campaigning for the DNC job.

Politico reported earlier today that Perez had stepped up his outreach to voting members of the DNC in recent days, though their story notes he was still considering a possible run for governor in Maryland in 2018 as well. Perez is “expected to hold a call with DNC members this week to discuss his intentions.”

Keith Ellison is seen as the frontrunner in the race now because of the number of endorsements he has racked up and the very public campaigning he has been doing for the job since the election last month.  The other candidates in the race as of this writing are New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley and South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison. Perez could potentially be Ellison’s biggest challenger, given his proximity to President Obama and the fact that he was considered as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton this past election, although the potential downside to his candidacy is the risk of the DNC chairman race becoming a revisited proxy war for the Clinton-Sanders 2016 primary battle.  Politico also noted that NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue is still considering entering the race as well.

The schedule for those campaigning for chairman and vice-chairman positions has stepped up recently, following recent events organized by Young Democrats of America in Memphis and the Ohio Democratic Party in Columbus where the candidates could speak and make their arguments.   The campaigning will step up in the new year, when the DNC has scheduled four regional forums across the country for the candidates to make their case to Democrats ahead of the party’s winter meeting in Atlanta where the new chairman and vice-chairs will be chosen, scheduled for the end of February.

UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting Perez has told three senior Democrats that he intends to run for DNC chairman.

Rahm Emanuel Rules Out Interest in DNC Chairmanship, 2020 Presidential Run

Rahm Emanuel – the mayor of Chicago and one of the architects of the Democrats’ big wins in the 2006 election as one of Nancy Pelosi’s top lieutenants – told the Chicago Tribune that he would not be running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Emanuel was in Washington D.C. for several days last week. At a panel organized by the Brookings Institution, he described the nation’s capital as “Disneyland on the Potomac,” after which he apologized because “I don’t want to insult Disneyland.”

The kicker: according to The Hill, Emanuel was at a bar when political consultant Neil Hare asked if he would run for president in 2020. Emanuel responded by giving him the middle finger twice, prompting laughter from others at the bar who witnessed it, including the reporter who broke the story.

Former Obama White House Aide Announces Run for DNC Vice Chair

New York State Assembly member Michael Blake tweeted this yesterday:

Blake – a veteran of both Obama presidential campaigns and the Obama White House – points out in his campaign biography, “I have worked – and won – at the grassroots organizing level in several states, including Iowa in 2008, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan (winning all 7 down ballot races), Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.” That will be a crucial skill for any Democrat with national aspirations – either at the presidential level or who simply wants to be involved in the decisionmaking at that level – while being the minority party in Washington for at least the next two years.  Read his platform here.

Joe Biden Leaves the Door Open for a 2020 Presidential Run

Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the U.S. Senate today when he had this very interesting exchange with reporters:

Vice President Joe Biden told a small group of reporters Monday that he may run for president in 2020.

“Yeah, I am. I am going to run in 2020,” Biden said when asked if he would run for office again. When asked what role he would seek, the 74-year-old vice president responded: “For president. And also, you know so, what the hell man, anyway.”

The vice president said, however, he wasn’t making a commitment to run when reporters asked if he was kidding.

“I’m not committing not to run. I’m not committed to anything. I learned a long time ago, fate has a strange way of intervening,” he said.

Biden would be 77 years old on Election Day in 2020.

If he did throw his hat in the ring, he would probably have the most name recognition of anyone in the rumored Democratic field. Democrats from all ends of the spectrum admire and respect him for his work as senator and vice president. The only downside other than his age would be the fact that he has already run unsuccessfully for the nomination twice. The upside: the Melania Trump RNC speech controversy would neutralize the plagiarism scandal that derailed Biden’s 1988 run.

On the other hand, there is another real question Democrats will have to ask themselves: would a Biden 2020 run help, hurt, or delay their efforts to rebuild the party’s bench, as well as deny an opportunity for new national leaders to emerge?