If Joe Biden does run for president, it will be the culmination of two years of weighing the issue while meeting with donors, many of them Wall Street executives -- and nearly duking it out with one of them along the way.
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Of course, the former vice president's path to run for president in 2020 didn't literally begin on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets in lower Manhattan.
But as FOX Business has reported, financial sector donors have been at his side from nearly the moment he began thinking about the White House.
Biden has been consulting the financial class about various economic issues, sources told FOX Business, while many Wall Streeters have encouraged him to run as an alternative to left-wing Democrats who dominate the party.
Wall Street executives believe Biden might be the only Democrat who can beat President Trump in the general election.
As far back as June 2017, Biden was testing the presidential waters by hobnobbing with financial titans at SALT, the widely attended investment conference held by Anthony Scaramucci’s investment firm SkyBridge Capital in Las Vegas.
Biden has previously said that he didn't run for president in 2016 because of the death of his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015. In a speech during the conference, Biden pointedly said of Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee that "I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate."
With that, speculation began to spread among the Democratic financiers there and across the country that Biden believed he would have beat Trump, and may return to battle in 2020.
After the speech, as reported exclusively by FOX Business, Biden demonstrated that he still hasn't lost his will to fight when at a private dinner, he got into a verbal spat with activist investor Bill Ackman of Pershing Square, famous for battling (unsuccessfully) corporations, including Herbalife and Valeant.
The back-and-forth stunned A-Listers and ended with Biden calling Ackman an a**hole.
A spokesman for Ackman at the time disputed “the idea that there was an argument or altercation between Joe Biden and Bill Ackman.” The spokesman added: “Bill had a great time at the dinner and enjoyed spending time with the former vice president.” But Biden later confirmed the spat in a revealing Vanity Fair profile about his still-smoldering presidential ambitions.
For the next two years, Biden openly discussed running for president with potential contributors, many of them on Wall Street.
Biden, of course, has weighed running for president many times during his political career and ran twice, both times unsuccessfully, in 1988 and 2008.
He was selected as Barack Obama's running mate for the 2008 election as a way for the upstart candidate to woo the Democratic Party establishment and attract white working-class voters to the 2008 to the Democratic ticket.
Biden's eight years as vice president were pretty uneventful except for an occasional verbal miscue, which he's famous for.
If Biden ran this time, he would be running in 2020 as a centrist liberal, when the base of the Democratic Party is increasingly dominated by progressive politics on social and economic issues. That said, Biden is regarded also a formidable politician, with access to money. Banks and credit card companies have a significant presence in his native Delaware, (he was the states U.S. senator from 1973 to 2009) because of its business-friendly laws. He is known to work well with Republicans on legislation. In the Senate, he chaired both the judiciary and foreign relations committee, while keeping his reputation as someone who can attract votes from blue-collar Americans -- the same voters turned around and helped to elect Trump in 2016.
These centrist positions contrast with the far-left tilt of the party base, which is why Biden -- like many of his Wall Street supporters-- is said to privately believe he is the only Democrat who can beat Trump in 2020. In April of last year, as first reported by FOX Business, Biden told potential donors, many of them Wall Street types, that he is seriously weighing a presidential run, but only if he opposes Trump, who some political observers believed might leave office after his first term amid historically low approval ratings.
If elected, 76-year-old Biden would be the oldest president in U.S. history, second only behind Trump who is turning 73, thus obviating age as an campaign issue.
Now that Trump is almost certainly running for a second term, Biden has increasingly sounded that he will run in 2020. Earlier this year, several Wall Street executives told Biden he would have the money to run if he chose to do so, and some of these same A-Listers say they are waiting on the former vice president to announce his 2020 intentions before writing any big checks to other Democratic presidential hopefuls, as reported last month by FOX Business.
The heavy-hitting financiers, who have been instrumental in helping past Democrats including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton secure the nomination, are increasingly wary of the cast of progressives including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), as well as Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and former Obama Administration cabinet member Julian Castro, all of whom have announced their presidential bids. Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.) may also soon announce he will run for president.
All have not just called for higher taxes and more regulations, but have gone further than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in taking a confrontational stance against business and wealth creators, causing angst among many in the Democratic donor base.
This has prompted Biden to ramp up his 2020 focus and potential strategy, especially in recent weeks, people close to Biden said.
One key difference with fundraising for the 2020 election is that “there is no Clinton machine demanding immediate loyalty,” notes a source with knowledge of the matter. Bill and Hillary Clinton, who dominated the Democratic Party, spent years cultivating relations with financial firms and foreign leaders through speaking engagements, media appearances, and their nonprofit organization, The Clinton Foundation.
When Hillary ran in both 2008 and 2016, the infrastructure was already in place for her to rally volunteers and secure large donations.
Notably, some front-runners like Warren and Sanders have shunned Wall Street donations, instead positioning themselves as populist candidates looking to fight elite financiers. Relying on smaller, individual contributions will be central to some candidates’ campaign messages.
Harris appears to be implementing this strategy successfully; just 24-hours after announcing her campaign, she raised $1.5 million, with the average donation estimated at $37.
This is a marked difference from the approach taken by Obama—who relied heavily on influential donors including Mark Gallogly, who runs Centerbridge Partners, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, and Former Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld, to provide him with “seed money” to launch his campaign. It was only after the initial round of funding, that he focused on raising smaller donations from individuals.
If Biden does run, he appears to looking to follow the Obama playbook: Advocating center-left positions on the economy to distinguish himself from the progressives he will be running against, and tapping into Wall Street and corporate America for campaign money.
It's unclear if that formula could win over the progressive Democratic Party base, but in a crowded Democratic field, polls show Biden is the party's likely front runner. Those same polls show him running well against Trump in a general election.
Still not everyone is convinced Biden is running--maybe not even Biden himself. Fox News has reported that it is almost a certainty that Biden is going to announce his candidacy.
But some of Biden's Wall Street friends who are pushing him to run, say he still hasn't totally made up his mind.
Biden himself recently stated that he was “the most qualified person in the country to be president,” and will announced his decision in the near future.
In other words, stay tuned.