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Joe Biden. Photo: Scott Olson / Staff

Joe Biden said he's spoken to Sen. Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama about selecting a running mate — and that he wants to build "a bench of younger, really qualified people" who can lead the nation over the course of the next four presidential cycles.

Driving the news: Biden spoke about the state of the 2020 race during a virtual fundraiser on Friday night that was opened to pooled coverage.

  • He said he'll announce a committee in mid-April to oversee the vice presidential selection process.
  • The former VP has a near-insurmountable lead over Sanders, but has not yet secured the number of delegates needed to claim the Democratic nomination.
  • "I don’t want him to think I’m being presumptuous, but you have to start now deciding who you’re going to have background checks done on as potential vice presidential candidates, and it takes time."

Between the lines: Biden also acknowledged the coronavirus has overshadowed coverage of the race and given President Trump an opportunity to dominate messaging via his task force briefings.

  • “I got a lot of people who are supporters getting very worried," Biden said. "‘Where’s Joe? Where’s Joe? The president’s every day holding these long press conferences.’”
  • “For a while there, I kept getting calls — people saying, ‘Joe, the president’s numbers are going way up and he’s every day on the news. What are you going to do about it?’”
  • “You can’t compete with a president. That’s the ultimate bully pulpit," Biden said, but added, "Those numbers aren’t going up anymore" because "the things he’s saying are turning out not to be accurate and people are getting very upset by it.”

Biden, 77, also said he's begun outreach to assess who he could bring into the administration if elected.

  • He said "one of the ways to deal with age" is "to build a bench of younger, really qualified people who haven’t had the exposure that others have had but are fully capable of being the leaders of the next four, eight, 12, 16 years to run the country."
  • "They’ve got to have an opportunity to rise up."

Go deeper

Updated 9 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

11 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.