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Is Biden running for president? Top aide says vice president is nearing decision

Is Biden running for president? Top aide says vice president is nearing decision
Vice President Joe Biden awaits the arrival of the South Korean president for lunch at Biden's official residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington on Thursday. An announcement on whether Biden will run for president is imminent, a top aide says. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

Vice President Joe Biden is nearing a final decision on a possible White House run, according to a message to his political network from one of his closest advisors.

"If he decides to run, we will need each and every one of you --  yesterday," says the message from Biden's longtime aide Ted Kaufman.

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The campaign would be motivated by his "burning conviction" to boost the middle class, the message says.

Biden is aware of looming deadlines for getting on the ballot in some states, but his "first and foremost consideration" remains the welfare of his family, Kaufman said in the message, which was obtained by The Times.

"He has been in public and political life a long time and he has a good grip on the mechanics around this decision," Kaufman writes. "It will not surprise you, as it does not surprise me, what he will weigh in the decision and what -- being Joe Biden -- he will not."

The letter offers the most significant insight yet into the thinking of the small circle of Biden loyalists who have been part of discussions with the vice president over his political future. Kaufman, who replaced Biden in the U.S. Senate on an interim basis after Biden was elected vice president, did not offer any further clues about his thinking or the final timeline for an announcement.

But he did describe the kind of campaign Biden would wage if he decided to enter – an "optimistic campaign. A campaign from the heart. A campaign consistent with his values, our values, and the values of the American people."

"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.

Kaufman's letter comes two days after Hillary Rodham Clinton's performance in the first Democratic presidential debate generated questions about whether a Biden campaign would still be viable. Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, said in a television interview that while Biden deserved the time and space to weigh a decision, "the time has come for a decision."

Separately Thursday, a prominent Democratic donor who would probably support the vice president if he ran said that the question of whether Biden and his family could endure a presidential campaign in the wake of the death of his eldest son had largely been settled, and that the next major hurdle was to determine whether Biden could mount a viable campaign.

The first deadlines are fast approaching, but Biden could still run a strong campaign if he were to announce soon, the donor said, speaking anonymously to discuss the deliberations.

"He can do it now, but soon the runway becomes too short," he said.

Kaufman urged those receiving the message to "stay in touch."

"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."

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