Thursday, January 11, 2007

Biden's staff

Check out what Biden's doing (from "The Fix"):

Sen. Joe Biden months ago began making clear that he intends to run for the Democratic nomination in 2008. But until the last few days there was very little beyond the Delaware senator's rhetoric that suggested a real campaign was underway.

Twenty years after his first run for the White House, Sen. Joe Biden is making a second bid for the presidency. (Getty Images)That changed yesterday with the announcement that Luis Navarro would serve as Biden's campaign manager. Navarro most recently served as executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. He also was deputy campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) during the 2004 election and spent several years as political director of the Service Employees International Union.

Navarro's hiring should help build credibility for Biden among political insiders, and he brings strong connections to the Hispanic community and organized labor -- two key constituencies in a Democratic primary fight.

The Navarro hire is the most public sign of Biden's intentions but far from the only one. Papers establishing a presidential campaign committee -- not an exploratory effort -- will be filed by the end of the month with the Federal Election Commission, and a campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del., is currently being organized.

More than a dozen staffers are currently at Biden's Unite Our States PAC and will quickly move into roles on the presidential campaign. In addition to Navarro, Biden's former chief of staff -- Danny O'Brien -- will serve as political director and Larry Rasky, a longtime Biden loyalist involved in the 1988 campaign, will be the communications director. Chris Koerner, formerly of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, will be the campaign's finance director.

In addition to his expanding campaign staff, Biden maintains a kitchen cabinet stocked with family and longtime advisers that includes his sister, Valerie Biden-Owens, former chief of staff Ted Kaufman and David Wilhelm, a past chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Iowa state director for Biden during the '88 campaign. Mike Donilon, a past political consultant for Biden, is also an informal adviser.

Biden is also seeking to address the biggest potential problem with his candidacy -- fundraising. Biden insiders say he will show roughly $4 million on hand in his year-end report (as of Oct. 30 he had $3.3 million in the bank). They also say the senator has won over financial big-wigs to support his candidacy.

One interesting sidenote is Biden's potential fundraising strength in Boston. Should Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) decide against a second national run in 2008, Biden allies believe he is well-positioned to fight Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) for support among campaign donors in Boston. As evidence they point to a commitment from Jack Connors, chairman of the board at Boston College as well as the advertising firm Hill Holiday, to raise money for Biden.

The first three months of 2007 will be crucial to Biden's chances. His task is not to beat Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in fundraising; rather, it's to distinguish himself from the second-tier pack that currently includes Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M.) and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

There's little question that if Biden has the money he can stand on a stage and compete with any candidate in the Democratic field. But he must show a commitment to raising the $10 million (or so) he must show on hand at the end of March to be seen as a credible candidate. The senator's recent moves suggest he understands how important the next 90 days are to his nascent campaign.

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