STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Here's the irony for Secretary Clinton. Each new round of email disclosures allows her to say she's being transparent. Each round also reminds the public of an unflattering story she would rather not discuss at all. And each round also fuels speculation about the intentions of a possible Democratic alternative, Vice President Joe Biden. Here's NPR national political correspondent, Mara Liasson.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Political junkies and the media are busy debating. Will he or won't he get in the Democratic presidential race? Biden is now included in every Democratic primary poll. CNN has announced that even if Biden decides to run on October 13, he can still get a spot in the first Democratic debate in Denver that very night. Every phone call from a Biden aide is examined for hidden meaning. And when Biden himself performs even the most anodyne vice presidential duties, there could be clues. Listen to Biden as he was concluding a recent event. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The audio of this story incorrectly placed the October 13 Democratic debate in Denver. It will be in Las Vegas.]
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Run for president.
JOE BIDEN: Ladies and gentlemen - no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
LIASSON: But did the vice president mean yes, yes, yes, yes? Who knows? No one in Washington does, and maybe the vice president doesn't know yet either, even though The Hill newspaper ran a story yesterday headlined, quote, "Biden's close friends believe the stars are aligning for his likely presidential bid." Biden himself was asked about this on the Stephen Colbert show. It was an emotional moment, coming just weeks after his son, Beau, died from brain cancer. And Biden acknowledged he just wasn't there yet.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT")
BIDEN: I'm being completely honest.
STEPHEN COLBERT: I believe you.
BIDEN: I - so - but nobody has a right, in my view, to seek that office unless they're willing to give it 110 percent of who they are.
LIASSON: Biden is a beloved figure in the Democratic Party, and his appearance on "Colbert," so raw and authentic, just reminded Democrats why they have so much affection for him. But what if Biden does get in the race? Does he have anything to offer that Hillary Clinton doesn't, other than his regular-Joe style? They're both centrist Democrats and administration - read, establishment - figures. Then, there's this mystery. Vice presidents are usually the natural successors. Biden has had seven years to lay the foundation for what would be his third try for the presidency, but he hasn't done any of the spadework to raise money or build an organization. So why now? Political analysts are eagerly putting Biden on the couch. Maybe it's because Hillary looks weaker than expected. Maybe it's Beau's death, or, as one Democratic operative mused, maybe Biden is also mourning the end of his own political career. One thing Biden doesn't have is time. It would be nice to wait three or four months to see if Hillary Clinton will falter, but the vice president doesn't have that luxury. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.