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."

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