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Biden Talks Education; Miami Audience Listens For Clues To Presidential Bid

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One thing's certain about letting it be known that you're thinking of running for president - people pay close attention whatever you say and whatever you don't say. Vice President Joe Biden is thinking, and people are watching his public speeches this week. Biden was in Miami yesterday, from which NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Joe Biden hasn't been in the public eye much since May, when his son Beau died from brain cancer. It's a loss that hit him and his wife Jill hard. Last week in a conference call with the Democratic National Committee, Biden sounded anything but sure about a run. He said he's trying to decide if has, quote, "the emotional fuel to run for president." That's the backdrop for this week's events. Yesterday at Miami-Dade College, Biden made no mention of politics or his deliberations of a possible White House bid, expect to note the larger-than-usual press contingent.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JOE BIDEN: And by the way, it's amazing how good this school is. Look at all the press you've attracted.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Their interest in community colleges impressed me greatly.

ALLEN: It's a familiar stop for national politicians. With 165,000 students, Miami-Dade College administrators say it's the largest college in the nation. Biden was here before in 2014 to deliver the commencement address. Biden came back to Miami-Dade College yesterday to promote an administration proposal - one that would make two years of community college free for students with at least a 2.5 grade point average. In the new economy, Biden told the students and administrators, 12 years of education is not enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BIDEN: That's why the president and I have put forward a plan for not 12 years of free education for every American, but 14 years - 14 years of free education available to all.

(APPLAUSE)

ALLEN: Biden also talked at length about income inequality, which is a big topic in the presidential campaign. Afterwards, 18-year-old Alejandro Diaz (ph) said he was impressed and thinks Biden should run for president.

ALEJANDRO DIAZ: I'd like to see him. I would love to see them. I mean, he has already two terms of experience. And I think him and Obama made a great team, picking up the country from where it was.

ALLEN: Diaz is registered as an independent and said until he heard Biden, he'd been leaning Republican. As for Hillary Clinton...

DIAZ: ...She has a very negative vibe on her, so I think that's affecting her a lot. Hillary - I don't trust her too much (laughter).

ALLEN: In recent weeks, a Draft Biden movement has gathered steam, as questions have intensified surrounding Clinton's use of a personal server to store her emails as Secretary of State. Republicans see an opening. In a year when the GOP has large and unruly nominating contest ahead, Republicans have attacked Clinton over her emails. Some, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, say Democrats should have more options, too, and that Biden should run. Miami Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, came to hear Biden's speech yesterday. Like Cheney, he also thinks Biden should get into the race.

CARLOS CURBELO: It seems like it - to me, the front runner there is certainly struggling. And I think Mr. Biden has some political strengths that match up rather interestingly with Mrs. Clinton.

ALLEN: Another member of Congress, Democrat Frederica Wilson, met with Biden before his speech and says education - not politics - was all they discussed. But the prospect of a primary that would force her and other Democrats to choose between Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton is clearly not something she would welcome.

FREDERICA WILSON: They're both - they have similar philosophies. We love them both. We've worked with them, and so it'd be very difficult.

ALLEN: Biden is expected to make a decision soon on whether to run. And next week, he'll have a good opportunity to talk about it when he'll be a guest on the new "Late Show With Steven Colbert." Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.