Most of the Democratic presidential candidates will be making their pitches to the party diehards on Friday, but the talk of the Democratic National Committee summer meeting in Minneapolis is one potential candidate who won't be here.
Vice President Joe Biden's deliberations over making a late entry in the race have been the talk in the hallways outside the meeting rooms where the party stalwarts are conducting more mundane business. A gathering that months ago would have looked like it was set to be a low-drama Hillary Rodham Clinton lovefest has crackled with a bit of intrigue.
The will-he-won't-he speculation exposes the lingering divisions and doubts among Democrats. There are the progressives who've aligned behind Sen. Bernie Sanders' bid and see no need for another Clinton alternative. There are the Obama partisans with memories of the 2008 primary fight who are still wary of Clinton and her operation. There are folks newly frustrated with Clinton's handling of a summer of controversy over her use of a private email server as secretary of State and wondering whether Biden is the back-up candidate they need. And there are, of course, the Clinton loyalists who want to tamp down the talk and move on.
"It makes people anxious," said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter.
Of course, Democrats technically already have a primary fight on their hands. Sanders' surprising rise in the polls in New Hampshire and ability to draw large crowds has given Clinton more of a fight than many expected.
But it's clear Democrats here see a Clinton-Biden primary fight as another animal. It would divide the party not along clear ideological lines -- as Sanders' bid does -- but between personalities. It could become about Clinton's weaknesses as a candidate -- her history and her trouble winning a slice of white, working-class voters. It has the potential to be negative. It could get personal.
"It's a fight we don't want to see happen," Rendell said. "For many of us, it would be like if your two children wanted the same job. It would be gut-wrenching."
Ahead of the meeting, Biden, whose son Beau died in this spring, spoke with Democratic party chairs on a conference call about Iran, but noted when asked about a bid that he was weighing whether he had the "emotional fuel at this time to run."
While Biden deliberates, Clinton's campaign has been trying to send a message that it's locked down resources, talent and support -- a subtle boxing-out of Biden before he's in the game. Clinton released memos outlining her strengths in the four early primary/caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, the New York Times reported. Her campaign announced new agreements that allow it to jointly raise money with state parties in Mississippi, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The DNC announced a similar agreement Thursday with the Clinton campaign, although it said the agreement was not a sign of bias in favor of that camp and hoped to sign agreements with other campaigns soon.
"We are building the organization we will need now to make sure that whoever our nominee is, they are in the best possible position to win next November," said DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Almost the full field of candidates is slated to speak to the group Friday, including Clinton, Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee. Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb is not on the schedule.
Some folks in Minneapolis hoped Clinton would use the chance to speak more directly about the troubles that have led some to go looking for another candidate. Clinton's use of a personal email account for government business and her handling of questions over the release of those emails is view by some Democrats as a self-inflicted wound -- and one that can only be repaired by straight talk from the candidate herself. She took a step in that direction on Wednesday, acknowledging that using the private email was "clearly not the best choice."
DNC vice chair and former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said Thursday that he saw a real opportunity for Clinton to make a needed breakthrough.
"She is one step away from a incredibly close connection with the American people. They've seen her through ups and downs. They've see her through political challenges. They've see her through personal challenges," he said. "I think that the test of this will be how much she can recognize that authenticity is everything right now."