Former Vice President Joe Biden is officially tossing his hat into the ring for the 2020 presidential election, but his former boss seems to be signaling his intention to let a crowded Democratic Primary field sort itself out.
A spokesperson for former President Barack Obama released a statement shortly after Biden’s Thursday announcement offering support for the former veep but stopping short of formally offering an endorsement:
“President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made. He relied on the Vice President’s knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today.”
Despite no formal endorsement, Biden’s campaign already appears to center on the former vice president’s ties to Obama. At an early April labor union event, Biden touted himself as a proud “Obama-Biden Democrat.”
Obama’s decision to forgo an early endorsement for Biden is similar to his approach to the 2016 Democratic primary race. Despite a much smaller field — and a clear early lead for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — Obama declined to issue an endorsement but gave similarly effusive praise of his former Cabinet member.
“She was a formidable candidate in 2008,” Obama said at the time, according to MSNBC. “She was a great supporter of mine in the general election. She was an outstanding secretary of state. She is my friend. I think she would be an excellent president.”
With a much more crowded field and a proxy battle over the political direction of the Democratic Party, Obama’s decision to let the race shake out without his direct involvement isn’t too surprising.
David Axelrod, a former chief campaign strategist and senior adviser to Obama, said as much to Politico on Thursday.
“The custom for former presidents is not to endorse presidents,” he said. “The expectation that he would, I find kind of baffling.”