Miami – Democratic donors who attended a high-dollar fundraiser headlined by Joe Biden on Wednesday expressed little enthusiasm afterwards for a come-from-behind presidential bid.
Biden spent more than two hours talking to attendees who paid up to $33,400 to attend the event, held in the Coconut Grove home of Miami real estate developer Stephen Bittel. Proceeds went to support Senate Democrats mounting re-election bids.
Guests said afterwards that Biden’s 2016 decision-making never arose during the event, which was closed to the press.
“I wish it did,” said one attendee, who lamented missing the chance to hear Biden discuss his political future to potential supporters — and campaign donors. Instead, Biden made the case for electing Democratic senators and defended the Iran nuclear deal.
Biden did raise the name of one Democratic presidential candidate — Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“He did say that Bernie Sanders was doing a great job exciting his crowds,” said one attendee, quoting Biden as saying he wasn’t “a populist like Bernie.” Those remarks came as Biden extolled the importance of rallying support for Democratic Senate candidates.
Biden had travelled to Miami Wednesday to talk up the Obama administration’s higher education initiatives before the fundraiser, touring a science lab at Miami Dade College and delivering remarks.
His visit garnered out-sized attention from the national media, who crammed into a small classroom to hear Biden deliver a lengthy speech that touched on populist themes.
The vice president is still deciding on mounting a presidential bid. His trip came after two weeks on intense speculation about his intentions, fueled by private meetings with top Democrats at his home in Washington. One of Democrats he met, liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, was coy Wednesday when asked whether the vice president suggested they run together on a Democratic ticket.
“It was a long conversation,” she told The Boston Globe, after a pause.
Biden made only small nods to his presidential deliberations during his speech on Wednesday, joking the press interest given to his community college speech “impresses me.”
“I hope that’s what they’re going to write about!” he said.
Later, as he emphasized taking chances in life, he seemed to characterize his own motivations going forward.
“People who aren’t willing to risk failure never succeed,” he said.
During the Democratic fundraiser, Biden was described as “energetic” and “charismatic” by one attendee— but not necessarily the kind of person who is yet running for president.
During his remarks and conversations there was no talk of “emotional fuel,” as there was last week when he spoke to Democrats on a conference call.
And even though they’d just spent their evenings in his presence, no guest surveyed by CNN came away sold on a Biden candidacy.
“He’s no spring chicken,” said one younger guest of the 72-year-old vice president.
“What does he have to offer that (Democratic front-runner Hillary) Clinton doesn’t?” wondered another.
All spoke on the condition of anonymity since the fundraiser was meant to be off-the-record.