A few weeks back, I was gossiping with a former senior aide to Joe Biden who's in regular contact with the former vice president. He said he genuinely didn't know if Biden was going to run for president again in 2020, but the confidant did say this: No one enjoys watching the "will he or won't he" speculation game more than Biden himself.
And who can blame him? It's got to be pretty darn flattering to watch the country collectively hold its breath as you entertain exploratory meetings with dignitaries, political leaders and high-end donors.
But enough's enough. It's time for Biden to make the call: in or out?
There are a few important reasons that his clock is ticking especially loudly at the moment.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced he's raised a staggering $6 million from 225,000 donors — in just 24 hours since announcing his presidential run.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, raised $1.5 million in her first 24 hours. And at the beginning of the month, Elizabeth Warren launched her presidential exploratory committee and raised $299,000 online from over 8,000 donations.
Those are Democratic dollars that are no longer up for grabs. Voters are lining up to give their candidate a head start, and those early dollars translate into media attention and grassroots momentum, and Biden's missing out.
The second reason? Bigger donors.
Grassroots money is important, but billionaires' money can make a campaign. The heavy hitters are eager to make their investments while they can make a difference. Back in 2015, when Biden was contemplating a run, many fundraisers for his past campaigns withheld their dollars from Hillary Clinton, who'd already announced, pending Biden's foray that never came.
According to a Fox Business report, top Democratic donors on Wall Street are waiting on Biden before writing any big checks this time, too, but they may not be willing to wait as long.
Third? The Klobuchar factor.
You could argue that voters who lean toward progressive powerhouses Sanders, Harris and Warren aren't natural Biden voters, and so their fundraising isn't cutting into his. But one other candidate is veering dangerously close to Biden's lane: Amy Klobuchar.
The Minnesota Democrat raised a million dollars within the first 48 hours of launching her presidential bid. She's fashioned herself as a Midwest moderate who eschews the far-left lurch of her progressive colleagues. That's Biden's brand, basically, the pragmatic unifier who doesn't suffer fools.
Of the radically leftist ideas du jour, Klobuchar has swatted back at abolishing ICE, the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and free four-year college for all. But let's face it — that doesn't make her a moderate; it just makes her not insane.
Democrats can fear not, she's still reliably liberal on a host of other issues, from supporting an assault weapons ban, the Paris Climate Accord, single-payer health care, federally funding sanctuary cities, a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and legal abortion even after 20 weeks.
All this means another self-proclaimed moderate like Biden, who supports many of the same but with much bigger name recognition and campaign resources, needs to head her off early, instead of giving her time to entrench, build momentum and dominate the lane.3 comments on this story
The fact that she's a woman and 18 years younger than Biden is gives her a leg up, too.
Reason four? Consolidation.
With a dozen Democrats in the running and more to come, consolidating the field will be both agonizing and crucial. The sooner Biden makes his intentions clear, the sooner that can begin.
There's also, incidentally, graciousness. Biden might enjoy the adoration and speculation, but it's time for him to either make his third and final attempt at the presidency or put his considerable might behind another candidate. The earlier, the better.