Embarrassed Washington Post editors were left scrambling earlier today after a story was accidentally published that declared Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy.
With “XXX” showing in certain areas where details were yet to be added, it’s clear the piece was meant to remain in draft mode. But somebody with a fat finger hit the wrong button. Before the story could be removed, the Republican National Committee grabbed and sent the copy to those on its “War Room” mailing list.
Once the error was discovered, it was replaced with an editor’s note reading “This file was inadvertently published.”
Here’s how it looked before it was removed:
Biden to launch a presidential campaign
October 19, 2015
Vice President Biden plans to enter the contest for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, ending months of speculation about his intentions and delivering a jolt to an already unpredictable contest, according to XXX sources familiar with his decision.
Biden, who has been publicly grieving since the death of his eldest son on May 30, began telling associates on XX of his intention to launch a late-breaking campaign that will pit him against a pair of Democrats who have been well ahead of his decision-making process, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
A formal announcement could come within the next week, just in time to allow the vice president to appear at a critical party event Oct. 24 in Iowa. The three-way race among Democrats sets up a debate over which candidate is the rightful heir to President Obama’s legacy and whether the party needs a sharp break — as Sanders contends — from the policies of both Obama and former president Bill Clinton.
Biden’s entry into the contest comes after several months of declining popularity for Hillary Clinton, during which she has been dogged by an FBI investigation of the security of the private e-mail server she used during her time as Obama’s secretary of state. The controversy helped prompt a rise in Sanders’s standing from iconoclastic liberal to a more fearsome insurgent.
But Biden’s decision also arrives just days after what many consider Clinton’s best campaign moment so far: a commanding performance at the Oct. 13 debate in Las Vegas that left many party insiders suggesting the vice president’s path to victory no longer seemed plausible.
His public consideration of the race was originally dismissed by many Washington insiders as a mechanism to help cope with the death of his son Beau Biden, a former Delaware attorney general. It evolved into the plausible candidacy of an elder statesman whom some establishment figures pushed to run to provide another option than Clinton.
Although Biden faces an uphill challenge to craft a credible national campaign, his story of overcoming repeated tragedy in his family will serve as the unspoken theme of a campaign.
“No one owes you anything. You gotta get up,” Biden said in mid-September on CBS’s “Late Show.” Despite his repeated expression of emotional pain, Biden lit a fire under the movement to bring him into the 2016 race.
“I feel like I was letting down Beau, letting down my parents, letting down my family if I didn’t just get up,” Biden told host Stephen Colbert.
The vice president remains far behind Clinton in national polling, and trails Sanders in some surveys. He has virtually no campaign infrastructure.
His inner circle of advisers helped him make the decision without the benefit of any of their own polling, focus groups or other standard practices of modern campaigns. As of last week, Biden’s team had not even opened a bank account for campaign donations, said two party strategists who offered advice during the decision-making process.
By contrast, Clinton’s campaign has already raised $75 million, and has paid staff members in dozens of states. Over the three-month fundraising period that ended Sept. 30, Sanders pulled in $26 million, a large portion of it in small donations from liberal activists donating over the Internet, many of whom seem poised to continue pouring money into his bid.
More than 50 donors with a history of raising big money have pledged to support Biden’s bid via the Draft Biden super PAC. Some insiders have suggested that the vice president’s team could amass $30 million over the next four months, which might be enough to be competitive in the first four contests.
Recent history suggests that candidates who win their party’s presidential nomination are those who have prepared the longest, raised the most money and then run the most disciplined campaigns. Other recent late-entry candidates — former Texas governor Rick Perry and former Tennessee senator Fred D. Thompson in the 2012 and 2008 GOP contests, respectively, and Wesley Clark in the 2004 Democratic campaign — have all flamed out, in part because of their lack of preparation for the rough-and-tumble nature of a presidential bid.
Many campaign veterans worry that Biden will face a similar fate, with some former colleagues concerned that his public image will take a hit, shifting from that of a sympathetic grieving father to that of a typical presidential hopeful.
“I’ve watched you all suck people into races and then shred them,” Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a Clinton supporter who considers Biden a friend, recently told reporters.
But the 2016 contest has defied many standard expectations, and Biden’s team is placing a big bet that he can capture this moment and ride the wave to the Oval Office.
Large blocs of voters in each party have shunned insider establishment candidates, searching for non-traditional political leaders with voices that ring authentic. The Republican field is currently led by a trio of candidates who never held political office, with real estate mogul Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at the head of the pack, with former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina in the top tier. Sanders, a socialist who has never before run for office as a Democrat, has surged into contention in Iowa and New Hampshire — grabbing the lead in many surveys — on the basis of a campaign focused on attacking the billionaire class and its hold on power in Washington.
Enter Biden, 72, a veteran of inside-the-Beltway politics, with his 36 years in the Senate and tenure as Obama’s lieutenant. His advisers think he has the right biography to navigate the current political environment, particularly as a contrast to Clinton.
Born in Scranton, Pa., and raised outside Wilmington, Del., Biden’s appeal has always been that of a middle-class guy. In a letter Thursday to current and former staff, one of Biden’s longest-serving adviser told the alumni network that a 2016 campaign would be focused on how “to restore the ability of the middle class to get ahead.”
“An optimistic campaign. A campaign from the heart,” wrote Ted Kaufman, Biden’s ex-chief of staff, who for two years served as his successor in the Senate. “A campaign consistent with his values, our values, and the values of the American people. And I think it’s fair to say, knowing him as we all do, that it won’t be a scripted affair — after all, it’s Joe.”
That last line suggested how Biden’s team intends to turn his tendency to say the right thing at the wrong time — or sometimes the wrong thing at the wrong time — into a political selling point that underscores his authenticity.
While Biden has never been particularly wealthy, Bill and Hillary Clinton have surged into the elite class of mega-millionaires, based on their work delivering high six- and seven-figure speeches at corporate outings.
But Biden and Clinton’s lifestyle differences may matter less than the common experience that links them: The Democratic Party now faces a contest over which candidate will be viewed as the heir to the Obama legacy.
When Clinton’s popularity soared during her stint as secretary of state, many of the president’s top advisers lined up behind her and eventually relocated to her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn.
Those familiar with Biden’s views said that left a bad taste with the vice president — as though those aides had decided she represented Obama’s spiritual heir.
During President Obama’s second term, Clinton has distanced herself from the West Wing on several major initiatives, including several that she personally worked on during his first term. On foreign policy, she split with Obama in calling for a more aggressive approach to the Syrian civil war by establishing a no-fly zone to protect rebels. This month, she also came out against the major trade deal that Obama struck with 11 Pacific Rim nations despite the fact that her State Department had negotiated key portions of the pact.
Biden stands behind Obama on both those issues, a show of loyalty that has won respect from key presidential advisers. “What he is now is a greatly enhanced figure. I think he’s been a model vice president. He’s been impeccably loyal in public, and unwaveringly honest in private,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s top political adviser since his 2004 Senate campaign.
Five months ago, the idea of a presidential campaign seemed implausible. Biden’s son was secretly at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, undergoing aggressive treatment for brain cancer. The vice president’s public schedule faded as he made daily treks from the Naval Observatory to the hospital, and some advisers privately wondered whether he would finish his term if his son died.
As Biden’s advisers acknowledged later, Beau Biden encouraged his father to enter the 2016 race, launching what would be his third presidential bid. The first two tries ended ignominiously, with Biden withdrawing from the 1988 contest in the fall of 1987 after plagiarism allegations, and bowing out of the 2008 race early after barely registering any support in the Iowa caucuses.
But as the 2008 campaign went awry, and Obama and Clinton went on to an epic battle, the seeds of the 2016 campaign may have been sown.
In the last days of the Iowa caucuses, Biden allowed a Washington Post reporter to trail him and his family around the state. He said that voters wanted authenticity and “can smell it when it’s not real.”
“I would hope that Joe would never be a politician like Hillary Clinton,” Jill Biden, his wife, interjected at one point.
“Stop that,” Joe Biden said.
“He thinks with his head and his heart,” Jill Biden said.
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