White House says Obama did not consider dropping Biden from 2012 ticket

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama never considered the idea of dropping Vice President Joe Biden from his 2012 re-election team and replacing him with Hillary Clinton, the White House said on Friday.

"Double Down," a new book on the 2012 campaign, says Obama's top aides considered the notion but decided not to pursue it because it did not materially improve Obama's odds.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, pressed on the issue at his daily news briefing, did not deny that such an idea was floated within Obama's re-election campaign.

"Campaigns and pollsters, as part of campaigns, test a lot of things," he said. "What I can tell you without a doubt is that the president never considered that, and had anyone brought that idea to him, he would have laughed it out of the room."

Obama feels Biden has been an enormous asset through two presidential campaigns and at the White House, said Carney. Pressed on whether Obama was aware that such an idea was floating within his campaign, he said, "I'm not aware that he was aware of it."

The book, by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, is to be released on Tuesday, but the New York Times and Washington Post have reported some of its contents.

The saga is significant because both Clinton and Biden are contemplating a race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Biden, who would be the underdog should he and Clinton both run, can ill afford to deal with a narrative in which Obama was thinking about replacing him.

With Biden as his running mate, Obama decisively won the 2012 presidential election over Republican Mitt Romney.

While Biden has shown a tendency toward the occasional gaffe, Obama has relied on him for several major initiatives, such as negotiating a last-minute deal with Republicans that avoided a fiscal crisis at the end of last year.

Visiting Biden's Pennsylvania hometown of Scranton in August with the vice president, Obama said it was the "best decision I made politically" to pick Biden as his running mate in 2008, "because I love this guy and he's got heart and he cares about people and he's willing to fight for what he believes in."

Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff in late 2011 when aides were talking about replacing Biden, tried to play down the book's revelation that advisers had conducted focus-group research and polling on such a move.

"I think one of the jobs of chief of staff is to recommend lots of things out of the box," he said on CBS's "This Morning" show. "But not for a moment was there a serious discussion or a belief that Joe Biden should be replaced, period. That doesn't mean issues were not looked at."

As for whether Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, knew about the effort, Daley said: "Not that I know of." (Editing by Philip Barbara and Jim Loney)

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