To watch Joe Biden, you'd think he doesn't run plays on anyone. After all, that's the business of show horses (think Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul), not the work horse vice president. Biden's efforts are surely not the calculus of strategic intent and serious wonks. They're about good intentions and happy warriors.
Except that, we read, Joe Biden wants to be president, again.
So happy warrior or not, he has to run plays -- influence plays to be precise -- to position his assets, re-position his deficits, and de-position his rivals, whether Democrat, Republican or Clintonian. Using The Standard Table of Influence, a tested and exhaustive system of 24 unique stratagems that mirror chemistry's periodic table, here are a few plays that Biden is running today to prepare his 2016 bid:
MY SURROGATE SON. A trusted proxy (one of three types of surrogates in this system) is telling us, "It's no secret that he's thinking about [running for president]." That's Biden's son, Beau, no less the Delaware Attorney General. His careful play is a Ping, a testing strategy that hints at the possibility then hides from its probability.
MY COOL VIDEOS. Less subtle than Beau's casual quip is his father's crafted Peacock -- a whitehouse.gov-hosted video series called, incredibly, Being Biden. It's not about anything, really, except that it's all about making the personable VP even more personable -- his uniquely strong suit and a good bridge to another play (see next).
MY PRESIDENTIAL JOB. What no one can take away from Biden is his day job. His arc as VP has taken on historic significance as he's done Obama's bidding on the controlling issues of debt, guns and immigrants. So to promote a 2016 presidency, he simply adds the play of symbols to his playbook, the Screen, one of four stratagems that frame players, this one by borrowing meanings and messages, and one that Biden hopes will make him (not Hillary) the heir apparent of a legally extended three-term Obama-Biden presidency.
It's too early, and to many implausible, for the happy-go-lucky vice president or his surrogates to simply say, "Why not Joe?" But these are the plays that will beg the question. They serve to remind the social media set that he's in the mix, that he's accessible, and Obama-presidential. Perhaps most important, they put a check on the soaring speculations of a Hillary Clinton 2016 run because they frame Joe Biden in ways that Hillary can't. He's the Not-Hillary-Candidate without saying so.
While Clinton's current play is a disciplined Pause, her surrogates are tethered only by granny knots and -- whoops -- running free with on-script plays of their own. And with more news of Benghazi missteps, she's better off out of the fray -- unless Joe or Beau or another proxy pulls her in, perhaps with an off-script Bait of what-do-you-know and when-did-you-know-it.