Politics & Government

S.C. Democrat tries to jump-start Biden bandwagon

Dick Harpootlian is urging Vice President Joe Biden to run for the White House.
Dick Harpootlian is urging Vice President Joe Biden to run for the White House.

Dick Harpootlian is on a mission: to put his friend Joe Biden in the White House.

The Columbia lawyer and former South Carolina Democratic Party chair has talked up a Biden candidacy with anybody who will listen.

Last week that included the vice president himself.

Vacationing on Kiawah Island, Biden called Harpootlian and talked for an hour. Harpootlian won’t even confirm the call occurred, let alone divulge its contents. But according to the New York Times, Biden told Harpootlian the May death of his son Beau had left an “open wound,” and he wondered aloud whether he’s up for another national campaign.

Harpootlian says that’s a question only Biden can answer.

But for more than a year he’s been Biden’s biggest cheerleader in a state that holds a critical primary. For months he’s encouraged the vice president to get into the race and challenge Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Nothing’s changed,” Harpootlian says. “I’m continuing to talk to people about the potential (for a Biden candidacy).”

I don’t believe she can beat the Republican in 2016.

Dick Harpootlian on Hillary Clinton

That includes swipes at the Democratic frontrunner. Back in March he said reports of a private Clinton email account and revelations about foreign gifts to the Clinton Foundation signaled that her campaign could “die by 1,000 cuts.”

“I don’t believe she can beat the Republican in 2016,” Harpootlian says.

To him, Biden is more authentic: “the most genuine person I’ve met in 40 years of politics,” he says.

Clinton, he told Business Insider, “does not connect in any sort of visceral way like Joe Biden does, or Barack Obama does, or her husband does. … She gives a very good lecture, but it’s not one that would inspire one to support her.”

Not that there’s any love lost between the Clintons and the outspoken Harpootlian.

In 2008, he backed Barack Obama’s primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. When Bill Clinton made what some considered racially charged criticisms of Obama, Harpootlian blasted what he called his “reprehensible” tactics. He went on to compare the former president to Lee Atwater, the South Carolina Republican operative known for his hardball tactics.

Advisers have reportedly told Biden he has to decide by Oct. 1. That’s less than four months before the Iowa caucuses and five months before the important, first-in-the-South S.C. primary.

Prospects of a Biden candidacy has been getting more buzz, including in the Palmetto State. Harpootlian has given $10,000 to the super PAC “Draft Biden.” And though polls continue to show Clinton with as much as a 70-point lead in the state, the Charleston Post & Courier ran a weekend editorial headlined, “Run, Joe Biden, run.”

In a town where the saying is, ‘If you want a friend get a dog,’ it’s tough for most people to conceive that the personal concerns for your family would somehow intervene in your decision to run.

Dick Harpootlian

But all that may be academic as Biden wrestles with a decision that’s as much about family as politics.

Says Harpootlian: “In a town where the saying is, ‘If you want a friend, get a dog,’ it’s tough for most people to conceive that the personal concerns for your family would somehow intervene in your decision to run (for office), especially the president of the United States.”

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