August 24, 2015

There are lots of ways you could interpret these remarks from today's White House press conference, some of them benign, some not. Is Obama in a position where he simply doesn't want to embarrass his vice president? Possibly. Is he using a possible Biden candidacy to get Hillary Clinton to endorse the TPP agreement, which they've unsuccessfully tried to accomplish for months? Also possible. Stay tuned:

The White House on Monday did not rule out the idea that President Barack Obama would endorse a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary, as speculation continued to swirl about whether Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race.

“The president has indicated his view that the decision he made, I guess, seven years ago now, to add Joe Biden to the ticket as his running mate was the smartest decision that he had ever made in politics. And I think that should give you some sense of president’s view of Vice President Biden’s aptitude for the top job,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the first briefing following the Obamas’ two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. On Monday, Obama and Biden met for their weekly lunch in the Oval Office.

Pressed further by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl on whether that would mean an Obama endorsement of his veep over his former secretary of state, Earnest noted that Obama has also spoken warmly of Hillary Clinton.

The president is not “torn” over the issue, Earnest said, as running for president is an “intensely personal decision.”

“I’ll just say that the vice president is somebody who has already run for president twice. He’s been on a national ticket through two election cycles now, both in 2008 and in the reelection of 2012,” Earnest said.

”So I think you could make the case that there is probably no one in American politics today who has a better understanding of exactly what is required to mount a successful national presidential campaign” than Biden, Earnest said.

On whether Obama would remain neutral throughout the primary process, Earnest demurred.

“I’ve been asked this once before, and I have indicated that the president does plan to vote in the Illinois primary, and that ultimately it will be Democratic voters who are responsible for choosing the Democratic nominee,” he said, before adding, “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an endorsement in the Democratic primary.”

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