How Biden Has Paved the Way for a Possible Presidential Run

A series of careful financial decisions, and the creation of nonprofits and academic centers staffed by close advisers, would help a campaign-in-waiting.

.. the complicated balance Mr. Biden has attempted since leaving the vice presidency two years ago: between earning substantial wealth for the first time and maintaining viability as a potential 2020 presidential contender.

He has done so while building a network of nonprofits and academic centers that are staffed by his closest strategists and advisers, many making six figures while working on the issues most closely identified with him. It has effectively become a campaign-in-waiting, poised to metamorphose if the 76-year-old Mr. Biden announces his third bid for the presidency.

.. So long as a campaign remains possible, Mr. Biden has appeared mindful of the political backlash against the last Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, for earning millions by speaking to private interests in the run-up to 2016, and for her family foundation’s acceptance of huge sums from corporate and foreign donors.

He has imposed telling restrictions on his moneymaking and fund-raising activities: Mr. Biden does not speak for pay to corporate, advocacy or foreign groups and does not consult or sit on boards, said Bill Russo, his spokesman. His nonprofits do not accept contributions from abroad, and the Biden Cancer Initiative does not take money from drug companies, he said.

Yet Mr. Biden, whose blue-collar roots have been central to his political persona through six terms in the Senate and two as vice president, has accumulated millions of dollars through a lucrative book deal and selective paid speaking.

.. Mr. Biden declined through his spokesman to be interviewed about his post-vice-presidency. But several people close to him emphasized that he had built his mini-empire not to prepare for 2020 but to make a continuing contribution on matters of longstanding concern.

“They planned a lot of this under the assumption that Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States,” said Sarah Bianchi, a former Biden policy aide who is now a paid senior adviser to the institute.

.. Mr. Biden has long been self-deprecating about his relative lack of wealth, compared with some politicians. He and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, left office with assets worth between $277,000 and $955,000 (not including their house near Wilmington, Del.), as well as a mortgage of $500,000 to $1 million and other smaller loans

.. they have very likely earned more in the two years since leaving office than in the prior two decades, thanks largely to a three-book deal with Flatiron Books reported to be worth $8 million

.. Two months after the contract was announced, they bought a six-bedroom vacation house in Rehoboth Beach, Del. — off the water — for $2.7 million. No mortgage was recorded.

.. Mr. Biden, who earned $230,700 a year as vice president, receives a hefty federal pension after 44 years of public service. The couple also receive about $66,000 a year in Social Security benefits and in other pension benefits paid to Dr. Biden

.. At the Biden Institute at Mr. Biden’s alma mater, the focus is on domestic issues including strengthening the middle class, gay and civil rights, and violence against women.

.. Administrators at both universities declined to provide budgets or salaries. Their presidents called Mr. Biden’s contributions invaluable, particularly in luring dignitaries to their campuses. “Among our strategic priorities is bringing Penn to the world and the world to Penn, and who better to do that?