Joe Biden's No. 1 Advisor: Why Jill Biden May Be Key to His 2016 Decision

The VP's wife has yet to reveal how she feels about a 2016 run by her husband.

ByABC News
September 9, 2015, 4:40 PM

— -- In 1975, Frank Biden encouraged his brother Joe, a first-term Delaware senator, to call an aspiring teacher and part-time local model named Jill Jacobs to ask her out on a date.

“You’ll like her Joe. ... She doesn’t like politics,” Frank told Biden, according to the vice president’s 2007 memoir, “Promises to Keep.”

Forty years and two unsuccessful presidential campaigns later, Jill Jacobs is now Dr. Jill Biden, the Second Lady of the United States, a full-time community college professor and on the cusp of her husband potentially launching a third run for the White House. Vice President Joe Biden’s 2016 decision could ultimately hinge on how his wife feels about another campaign, especially as the family grapples with the death of their son Beau.

“If Jill were not happy -- it sounds like a stupid thing -- but I’m not happy,” the vice president said about his upcoming decision in a 2014 New Yorker interview.

“In the end it will be Joe and Jill deciding of course what they want,” Valerie Biden Owens, the vice president’s sister, said in the same article.

In a 2008 interview with NBC, the Biden's late son Beau described Jill as his father's "number one partner -- and it covers all facets."

At an Atlanta synagogue last week, the vice president said, “I just don’t know” whether he and his family are ready for a presidential campaign, and Dr. Biden reportedly shares that hesitancy and concern for their family as they grieve Beau.

But Biden’s wife has also been his strongest supporter and confidant since the early days of their marriage, despite her initial aversion to politics. The vice president credits his wife for reviving his life and political career following the death of his first wife Neilia and daughter Naomi in a car accident.

“She gave me back my life; she made me start to think my family might be whole again,” Biden wrote in his 2007 memoir.

Dr. Biden has been alongside the vice president as he weighed his previous presidential runs. She was skeptical of his 1988 campaign and the “personal price” it would have on their family, the vice president wrote. But ahead of the 2008 race, she pushed him to launch a campaign.

“I want you to run this time,” she told her husband, according to Biden’s memoir. “It’s up to you, but we’ll support it.” When he asked her why he should run, she said, “We think you can unite the country.”

She was also the one who urged him to reconsider Barack Obama’s request to vet him as a vice presidential candidate after he initially declined the offer -- which ultimately landed Biden on the 2008 Democratic ticket.

Dr. Biden, who holds two masters degrees and a Ph.D., is the only known second lady to maintain a full-time job while also performing official duties as the wife of the vice president.

An English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, Dr. Biden has elevated issues close to her personally at the White House, including expanding access to community colleges and advocating for military families, a topic of significant importance to her given Beau’s service in the Delaware Army National Guard.

On Wednesday, Dr. Biden continued her community college push by joining President Obama on a trip to Warren, Michigan, where the two would discuss efforts to expand apprenticeship programs and promote the administration’s proposal to offer free community college to students.

The vice president, who says he’s known as “Jill’s husband,” refers to his wife as “my favorite Democrat, Jilly” and has incorporated Dr. Biden’s work as a community college professor into his stump speeches, including in his travel in the past week.

“Jill has an expression, and I mean this sincerely. She says, any nation that out-educates us will out-compete us,” the vice president has said on multiple occasions.

Dr. Biden’s trip to Michigan will further thrust her into the spotlight as her husband weighs a presidential bid. She has yet to publicly reveal whether she thinks her husband should pursue another presidential campaign, but a spokesman said she supports the vice president’s career decisions.

“She has always believed that her husband would make an excellent president,” said James Gleeson, communications director for Dr. Biden. “She will continue to support the vice president in his career as he has always supported Dr. Biden in hers."