Is Joe Biden Democrats' Plan B?

Someone is trying to send Hillary Clinton a message. Actually, a whole lot of someones — including Democrats — seem to be sending Clinton a series of messages.

Politicians communicate in the oddest way. They make speeches, have meetings, attend events — all to send signals to one another. Like the one that Clinton has been getting: “Watch out. You’re losing support.”

What are Clinton’s fellow Democrats supposed to do to get her attention? Send an email?

Every few days it seems, there is another signal that Vice President Joe Biden might be getting ready to do something that would have seemed unthinkable at this time last year — challenge the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

It’s been a cruel summer for Clinton, who has lost a third of her support in Iowa since May.

In the latest indication that a major political bombshell could be coming after Labor Day, Biden said this during a conference call with Democratic Party members when someone asked if his future plans included a third run at the White House.

“If I were to announce to run, I have to be able to commit to all of you that I would be able to give it my whole heart and my whole soul,” Biden said. “And right now, both are pretty well banged up.”

Still grieving the recent death of his son, Beau, from brain cancer, Biden acknowledged that he is making this important decision in consultation with family members.

“I'm not trying to skirt your question. That's the truth of the matter, but believe me, I've given this a lot of thought and dealing internally with the family on how we do this,” he added.

There is rampant speculation in political circles that Biden could decide to “do this” by late September or early October. While Clinton has a big fundraising lead, the vast majority of donors who contributed to President Obama’s re-election campaign are still sitting on their checkbooks. They’re not supporting Hillary, and they might just support Biden.

Before that call came a private meeting between Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a favorite among populist Democrats, which sent tongues wagging that a Biden-Warren ticket could be in the works. If that kind of pairing were to happen, it would be a formidable combination. It would also help neutralize what remains Clinton’s major draw as far as many Democratic voters are concerned — the desire by many to elect a woman president. Would they settle for a woman vice president?

Before that highly significant meeting came a column by Maureen Dowd in which the New York Times columnist revealed that Beau, on his dead bed, asked his father to seek the presidency one more time. If that story is true, such a personal plea could be a powerful motivation for Biden to enter the race.

By the way, if you’ve been wondering just how bad Clinton’s email scandal really is, consider this your unofficial confirmation that it’s probably worse than you thought. After all, in his day job, Biden works in the White House. So he is privy to all sorts of information detailing just how big a legal fix Clinton is in for her sloppy handling, on a private home server, of emails and other sensitive information, some of which was top secret. The FBI is already investigating, and — while unlikely — it’s not totally inconceivable that the Justice Department might take legal action in the case. Biden could be reading the tea leaves. Maybe he likes his chances to position himself as a solid Plan B for Democrats if The Hillary Express gets derailed by legal trouble.

In a recent Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Poll, the vice president got 14 percent. That’s not bad for someone who isn’t even in the race — at least not yet. In the same poll, Bernie Sanders — a declared socialist who isn’t even a Democrat, but an Independent — is within striking distance of Clinton with 30 percent, compared to 37 percent for the Democratic frontrunner. 

It’s been a cruel summer for Clinton, who has lost a third of her support in Iowa since May.

Amidst all this, where is Joe Biden? He’s visiting critical battleground states. Next on the itinerary: Florida. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

Ditto for the fact that, last weekend, the vice president made a surprise appearance at an important political event in his home state — the Sussex Democratic Jamboree in Lewes, Delaware — which is a required stop for candidates and elected officials in the state. For Biden, the visit was personal.

“I came because Beau would want me to come,” Biden told the crowd. “The reason is to say, 'Thank you.' This is where I got started.”

He’s right. This is where his story began. But where will it end?