Joe Biden

Vice President Biden reacts to reporters’ questions about whether he will run for president. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Dan Balz and Paul Kane
October 16 at 2:23 AM

Democrats loyal to Vice President Biden have a three-word response to the politicians and pundits who say Hillary Clinton’s performance in Tuesday’s Democratic debate makes a Biden campaign less likely: Not so fast.

Appearing eager to tamp down talk that the window of opportunity for the vice president to launch a campaign nearly closed after the debate, loyalists are taking steps to assure potential supporters that there is still a path to the nomination, however competitive and challenging, if Biden decides to run.

The clearest evidence came in a letter e-mailed Thursday to Biden’s political support network by former Delaware senator Ted Kaufman, who said a Biden campaign would be “optimistic,” “from the heart” and “unscripted.”

“If he runs, he will run because of his burning conviction that we need to fundamentally change the balance in our economy and the political structure to restore the ability of the middle class to get ahead,” he wrote.

The Associated Press first reported the contents of the e-mail message. The Washington Post later obtained a copy.

Kaufman’s words were arguably less significant than the author behind them. The former senator — appointed to the seat after his ex-boss became vice president — is Biden’s longest serving adviser, bridging the divide between the generation of staff who worked for Biden as a senator in the 1980s and a new crop of lieutenants who came up through the past decade of the family’s public service.

More importantly, Kaufman has been frequently portrayed as the most reluctant of the trio of inner-circle aides to the vice president to launch a bid and is known to be angry at the frequent portrayals of Biden as being on the brink of announcing his candidacy. Any note from him to the alumni network is treated with more credulity than any leak to the national press corps.

The main issue, still apparently unresolved, remains whether Biden and his family feel ready for the rigors of a presidential campaign so soon after the death of his oldest son, Beau, late last spring. Nothing Biden has said publicly in recent weeks suggested an affirmative answer, but he has not addressed the issue directly since before the visit to the United States by Pope Francis last month.

According to those tracking the vice president’s deliberations, a decision could come at any time, although the only certain timetable is the one set by the deadlines for qualifying for the primary and caucus ballots around the country. Those deadlines began to take effect at the end of the month.

To read expanded article, click here.