Politico Magazine’s Glenn Thrush has a lengthy profile on Vice President Joe Biden and his post-Obama ambitions. We’ve pulled the best parts.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The thing Biden wants “most”: “He’s in a predicament. It’s so big, it’s almost literary,” a member of Obama’s inner circle told me, shortly after a Washington Post/ABC poll showed Clinton leading Biden by an epic 73 to 12 percent, the widest margin ever recorded for a presidential frontrunner. “Never in his entire life has this man been better positioned to get the thing he most wants: the presidency. He’s climbed almost all the way to the top. And guess what? Somebody moved the ladder. How would you deal with that?”

His thoughts on President Obama: “Look, I just have more of a populist strain than Barack does,” he told an associate recently, a statement that clearly hints at 2016 product differentiation from Obama and Clinton, a desire to emphasize that he’s his own man.

His thoughts on Hillary Clinton: Understandably, Biden’s mind is much on Clinton these days, and he has often told friends he thinks he can beat her because he has seen her up close and judges himself at least her equal. (Like every other prominent Democrat with a sense of self-preservation, he is reluctant to criticize her publicly, saying “I’m not getting into that” when I ask him to compare Clinton’s tenure at Foggy Bottom with current Secretary of State John Kerry’s.)

When he’ll decide on a 2016 run“I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do,” he told me after an event in late January. “I’ll make the decision after the [2014] midterms. I’ve got a lot on my plate.”

What Biden’s friends think: Every one of the dozen Biden friends I interviewed predicted he wouldn’t actually run for president in 2016. Then again, every single one also said it wouldn’t be a surprise if he jumped in at the last minute to “keep this great ride going as long as possible,” as one veteran Biden staffer told me.

Biden took the jobs Obama didn’t want: [Biden's former Chief-of-Staff Ron] Klain counseled Biden to embrace a much more ambiguous role that fit Biden’s take-it-as-it-comes personality, urging him to undertake, in Biden’s words, “every shit job in the world” that Obama didn’t want to do. Fortunately for Biden, there was a whole lot Obama didn’t want to do, from managing the withdrawal from Iraq to babysitting unreliable and paranoid Afghan President Hamid Karzai and dealing with a squabbling Senate that Obama had been only too happy to leave.

The difference between Biden and Obama: “You know, I disagree with Joe Biden on a lot of stuff,” says Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), who served as deputy political director in the Bush White House. “But this is an individual who understands relationships. … This is a person that—I think that if you put him in a room with a lot of these people on the Hill, you’d find a way to focus on what you agree on and have a product. And I just get a completely different feeling with the president.”

Biden still scorned by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who dissed the vice president in a tell-all book: “You know, I have as much experience as Gates, and that’s one reason [Obama] asked me to do this job.”

His early 2016 ambitions were blocked by the Obama 2012 team: If there was a moment when Biden could have asserted himself as a free agent, willing to buck the president’s political team, it came (and went) in 2011. Biden didn’t ask for much, just a few side trips to see potential 2016 donors, a schedule that took him to battleground states where he could build his blue-collar brand. But Obama’s campaign hands set the tone early on: This was an all-for-one operation, and the one was Barack Obama, not Joe Biden.

Biden started 2016 planning over Christmas: Over the Christmas holidays, Biden convened a series of meetings at his secluded two-story house in Wilmington to discuss his strategy for the next two years … The basic plan entails hitting the road as much as possible to campaign for candidates in this year’s congressional elections and to tout infrastructure improvements around the country. Klain, according to several sources, has drafted another one of his famous memos outlining the narrowest of paths for positioning Biden in the 2016 race: either as a progressive alternative to Clinton or as an heir apparent, ready to pounce if she decides not to run.