Joe Biden reveals his biggest difference with Bernie Sanders: "I am not a populist"

The VP is sizing up more than just one potential Democratic rival ahead of his 2016 decision

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published September 3, 2015 3:58PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Yuri Gripas/Jonathan Ernst/Photo montage by Salon)
(Reuters/Yuri Gripas/Jonathan Ernst/Photo montage by Salon)

Speaking at a recent closed door fundraiser, Vice President Joe Biden, who's weighing whether to mount a third presidential bid, turned his attention not to dominant frontrunner Hillary Clinton, but to Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who's currently Clinton's top challenger. Biden admitted that he believed Sanders was doing a "helluva job" on the campaign trail, but he also told the well-heeled crowd his and Sanders' worldviews aren't identical.

“I am not a populist. But Bernie Sanders, he’s doing a helluva job,” Biden told wealthy Miami-area Democratic donors yesterday, according to Politico's Marc Caputo.

It was an unusual aside in what was otherwise reported as an event free of presidential speculation. “I’m here for one reason and one reason only: We have to take back the Senate,” Biden reportedly said according to sources who attended the 30 person Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in Miami on Wednesday.

According to Politico, some donors in attendance where thrown off by Biden's comment, although most shrugged it off as Biden being Biden. “What the hell was he saying? I mean, 90 percent of the room is a Hillary donor,” one contributor told Politico.

While Biden may have been talking up Sanders' 2016 campaign while staying mum about his own potential run at the fundraiser Wednesday, by Thursday morning, Biden was touting his own credentials as though he was already on the campaign trail.

"I’ve traveled, as of today, 992,894 miles for the president. I’ve met with virtually every major leader in the world. I know these guys, I know them better than anybody in the administration because I’ve been hanging around so long," Biden told Jewish business leaders near Miami today. The Vice President's visit to Florida also included a continued sell of the Iranian nuclear deal. The White House secured enough Democratic support in the Senate yesterday to override a Republican challenge but the administration is still coaxing hesitant Democrats in the House and the Senate to support the international agreement. Biden's town hall today was held in the congressional district of Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has yet to endorse the deal. 

Biden also told the crowd this morning that in all of his travels around the world and dealings with foreign leaders he most repeatedly asked one question.

"You know the one question I get asked all the time, no matter whether I’m trying to work out something with Poroshenko in Kyiv, whether I’m sitting with Bibi in his home in Tel Aviv, whether I’m down in with Dilma in Brazil, whether I’m with Xi for five hours in Beijing. As I make my case about what U.S. policy should be and why they should agree with it, you know the one question I get, every single person, friend and foe?" Biden said. "Can you do it?"

"Your government is dysfunctional," Biden said world leaders remind him before asking, "can you deliver?"

Biden has reportedly said he will make a decision on a bid for the White House by summer's end and when Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who recently met with Biden, was asked if their discussion included any talk of a potential Biden/Warren ticket, she only offered that "it was a long conversation."

Meet the Guys Who Might Run Against Clinton


By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Campaign Aol_on Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Populism The Democratic Primary The Left