Reporting from Washington — Sarah Palin said this week she thought she could defeat President Obama if she were to challenge him in 2012. Count Vice President Joe Biden among those who aren't taking her for granted.
"I don't think she could beat President Obama," Biden said in a Friday morning interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "But, you know, she's always underestimated."
Biden called his Republican counterpart from the 2008 election campaign a "real force in the Republican Party," one that would loom large in the 2012 race.
In another interview, aired Thursday night, he told CNN's Larry King: "Were I a Republican senator or a Republican political leader, I would look and say, 'Wait, she's got a good chance of getting the nomination.' But look, it's hard enough for us to figure out our side of the aisle, let alone go over and sort of handicap whether she can win or lose."
If the 2012 campaign were to pit Obama against Palin, Biden said, the choice for American voters would be crystal clear.
"We have a fundamentally different outlook on the world, and I think that would be a really, a really interesting race," he said.
Asked if she was the GOP opponent Democrats would prefer, Biden again hedged.
"You know, my mom used to have an expression, 'Be careful what you wish for, Joe, you may get it.' So I never underestimate anyone," he said. But "I believe President Obama would be in very good shape."
Palin has said that she would consider running for president if there were not another candidate who shared her vision.
"I'm looking at the lay of the land now, and … trying to figure that out, if it's a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family," she told ABC's Barbara Walters. Asked if she could beat Obama, she replied: "I believe so."
Palin has continued to dominate the conversation, with the premiere of her TLC reality show and the coming release Tuesday of her second book. She'll embark on a 10-day book tour that will take her through the nation's heartland, including two states that hold key roles in the GOP's nominating calendar: Iowa and South Carolina.
Biden has also seemed, at least in the short term, to have taken on a greater role in the White House message operation. In addition to his interviews with CNN and MSNBC, he met Friday with a group of newspaper columnists to discuss the administration's progress in Iraq and its efforts to pass a new START treaty.
Another interview with the administration's No. 2 appears in the December issue of GQ magazine, where he vouches for his boss and marvels at his own stamina. "People always ask me … 'Where the hell do you get your energy?'" Biden told the magazine. He asked his White House doctor. " Genes," he was told, but also, "You love what you do."
Biden turns 68 on Saturday. He celebrated Wednesday with a piece of cake delivered by Obama at their weekly lunch.