Joe Biden in 2008?

By Tim Grieve

Published February 25, 2005 5:29PM (EST)

We're just a month into Four More Years -- time flies when you're having fun -- but plenty of Democrats are already making moves for 2008. John Edwards has already made a trip to New Hampshire; Evan Bayh has hired an experienced New Hampshire political organizer (as well as former Howard Dean pollster Paul Maslin); Hillary Clinton has sought middle ground on abortion; John Kerry is keeping his supporters connected through a series of mini-campaigns; and Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack are both thinking hard about making runs of their own.

Now we can add another name to the list: Joe Biden tells the San Francisco Chronicle that he's thinking about the White House, too. "I'm sounding it out," Biden told the Chronicle during a testing-the-waters swing through California this week. "In all my career, there's more at stake than any time since I've been a senator ... (and) I have some pretty clear ideas about what I think should be done."

Biden ran in 1998 but dropped out early after he was caught plagiarizing part of a speech from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. While the plagiarism charges might be fodder for the Republicans -- trumped-up charges about a war 30 years earlier were apparently fair game in the 2004 race -- they'd probably be considered ancient news in the Democratic primaries.

Still, Biden acknowledges that he may have an uphill fight ahead of him -- and not just because Hillary Clinton is sitting on top of the mountain. Biden says he wonders whether Democrats "would be comfortable with me as the nominee." It's apparently a reference to his blunt talk on Iraq and just about anything else: In the course of his interview with the Chronicle, Biden warned of a coming "cesspool" in Iraq, suggested that the FBI is "completely impotent," referred to the "sheer frigging incompetence" of the FBI and Homeland Security, and said that, while he's deeply concerned about the effect steroid use has on the "ethics of this country," he "almost" couldn't care less "whether Jason Giambi's heart gives out or Barry Bonds is crippled.''

Biden's bluntness is a staple of Senate hearings these days -- his comments during the Alberto Gonzales hearings bordered on the bizarre -- but he's also winning a lot of praise from Democrats looking for their leaders to stand up. Biden will get his next big test in the coming weeks, as Republicans make William G. Myers III their judicial test case in the new Senate. Biden voted against the Democrats' filibuster of Myers when he was up for confirmation last time around, and Senate Republicans are counting on him to do the same this time. It's a bit of a trap for Biden. If he sticks with his prior vote, Democrats will accuse him of paving the way for the confirmation of extremist judicial nominees. If he switches, the Republicans will accuse him of flip-flopping and then blame him when they aim for the "nuclear option."

Welcome to the campaign.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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