Exclusive: Joe Biden backers hiring staff in more states in hopes of 2016 run

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Poll: Biden Surpasses Sanders, Clinton's Lead Shrinks

A group of Joe Biden supporters trying to build momentum for a White House run by the vice president is hiring paid staff in about a dozen crucial primary states.

The political action committee backing the vice president, Draft Biden, has begun building operations in 11 states holding primary elections on "Super Tuesday" in March 2016, two of the group's officials told Reuters, an important series of votes for any candidate seeking their party's nomination.

SEE ALSO: Bernie Sanders is dominating Hillary Clinton in a crucial early state

Draft Biden doesn't have a firm number for how many staff in total it will hire in those states, said Josh Alcorn, a senior advisor to the group, but the recruitment process is under way.

See photos of Joe Biden:

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Joe Biden as he mulls over a presidential run
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Exclusive: Joe Biden backers hiring staff in more states in hopes of 2016 run
FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a White House Champions of Change Law Enforcement and Youth meeting, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. CNN said Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, it will allow Biden to participate in the first Democratic presidential primary debate even if he decides that day to be a candidate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Solar Power International Trade Show in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Taking aim at his potential political opponents, Biden railed against Republicans who "deny climate change" and want to shut down the federal government over funding for Planned Parenthood, and pleaded with them to "just get out of the way." (AP Photo/Christine Cotter)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 10: Stephen talks with Vice President Joe Biden, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Thursday Sept 10, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)
In this Sept. 10, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a labor rally in New York. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
In this Sept. 7, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden, center, greets some of the crowd as he walks in the annual Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this Sept. 7, 2015, photo, a crowd gathers, many wearing union shirts, in front of Vice President Joe Biden as he speaks before joining in the annual Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh. Hearing chants of "run Joe, run," Biden marched in Pittsburgh's annual Labor Day parade on Monday as speculation swirled about a potential late entry into the Democratic presidential campaign. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Vice President Joe Biden puts on a United Steelworkers hat before he spoke to a crowd before he joined in the annual Labor Day parade on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this Sept. 10, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in New York. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
In this Sept. 4, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden, right, stands in the Oval Office of the White House during a meeting between President Barack Obama and King Salman of Saudi Arabia in Washington. In one minute, Biden seems like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, eating up adoration from die-hard supporters who are pleading with him to run. The next minute, he seems light-years away from convincing himself he’s ready to run _ a man still reeling from personal tragedy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Vice President Joe Biden discusses the Iran nuclear deal with Jewish community leaders at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Fla. on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Biden sought to allay concerns of South Florida Jewish leaders who fear Iran won too many concessions in the agreement, which seeks to curb the country's nuclear program in exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)
FILE - In this July 21, 2015, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable discussion at the Advanced Manufacturing Center at Community College of Denver. Although Biden is considering whether to enter the presidential race, he skipped this week’s Democratic National Committee summer meeting. Doing so created an opening for front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton to consolidate her party’s support. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
FILE - In this May 26, 2015 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden listens to remarks to the media during a meeting between President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Although Biden has yet to make a decision on a run for the presidency, his advisers say the discussions taking form in the last several weeks are serious enough that the vice president and his associates have started gaming out mechanics like fundraising, ballot deadlines and an early primary state strategy. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
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Whatever the number, adding paid staffers in the 11 states suggests a growing confidence within Draft Biden that Biden will mount a challenge to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the front runners for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The expansion means Biden would have a far broader and more sophisticated infrastructure than previously known should he decide to enter the race.

Alcorn said Draft Biden is also adding paid staff in Florida, where the primary is held two weeks after Super Tuesday.

Until recently, the Super PAC had concentrated on establishing operations in the four earliest primary states - Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. It has about a dozen employees in those states.

Biden, 72, who is still coping with his son Beau's death earlier this year, has said he is not sure whether he is up to the demands of the presidential contest.

Still, he has huddled with advisors and met with Democratic Party luminaries such as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a darling of liberal Democrats for her staunch opposition to some of the risk-taking by Wall Street banks.

Some of Biden's supporters hope he will make up his mind before CNN's Oct. 13 debate for Democratic candidates.

Alcorn declined to say how much Draft Biden would spend on hiring staff in the Super Tuesday states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

He also would not say how much money the group had raised so far, but "we're well on our way to reaching our $2.5 million-$3 million goal before he enters the race."

NARROWING THE GAP

The Draft Biden Super PAC can raise unlimited amounts of money, but federal rules prohibit it from coordinating directly with Biden's official election campaign, should he run.

The Super PAC's top brass say they don't plan to join any campaign but staff on the ground in each state could do so.

"My hope is that if he decides to get into the race all these volunteers that are helping us will basically abandon us and go help him," said Steve Schale, a Democratic political operative who is leading Draft Biden's operations in Florida.

Clinton and Sanders are leading Biden in early polls: About 16 percent of Democrats in a Reuters/Ipsos poll said they would vote for him, while 47 percent favored Clinton and 26 percent Sanders.

Both also have a significant head start in campaigning, but Biden's supporters believe sharply expanding staff in the Super Tuesday states would quickly narrow that gap. Neither Clinton nor Sanders has yet hired paid staff in every Super Tuesday state, said a Sanders spokesman and a Democratic strategist close to Clinton who did not want to be named.

The Clinton strategist was skeptical about Draft Biden's hiring plans. "I'm not sure they understand just how far behind they really are."

See photos of Joe Biden through the years:

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Joe Biden through the years
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Exclusive: Joe Biden backers hiring staff in more states in hopes of 2016 run
FILE- In this July 21, 2015, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable discussion at the Advanced Manufacturing Center at Community College of Denver. Biden's associates have resumed discussions about a 2016 presidential run after largely shelving such deliberations during his son's illness and following his death earlier this year. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
Democratic politician Joseph R. Biden Jr, the United States Senator from Delaware, circa 1980. He became the US Vice President in 2009 under President Barack Obama. (Photo by Nancy Shia/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US Senator Joe Biden(D-DE) briefs reporters prior to the 15 January start of the second day of the US Senate impeachment trial of US President Bill Clinton on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. House prosecutors will summarize their case against the president 15 January. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Luke FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)
392389 02: U.S. President George W. Bush meets with members of the Senate and House foreign policy leadership in the Cabinet room at the White House July 25, 2001 in Washington, DC. Seated next to the president is Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 08: Joe Biden during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 12: Democrat vice chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), throws up his hands as he speaks during debate on the nomination of John Bolton as US Ambassador the the United Nations May 12, 2005 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Joe Marquette/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JULY 12: U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) speaks during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on 'North American Cooperation on the Border' on the Border' on Capitol Hill July 12, 2005 in Washington, DC. The committee discussed border security and how to work together to secure the borders with Mexico and Canada. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3331 -- Pictured: (l-r) Senator Joe Biden during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 22, 2007 (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
ORANGEBURG, SC - APRIL 26: (L-R) U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson greet the crowd before the start of the first debate of the 2008 presidential campaign April 26, 2007 at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. The debate, featuring eight Democratic presidential candidates, comes 263 days before the first ballot will be cast in the Iowa caucus next January. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Vice President Joe Biden reacts as he enters the auditorium before speaking about the economy and the Obama administration's policies, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the economy and the Obama administration's policies, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Vice President Joe Biden smiles after being given a shirt by Drake Student Body President Joey Gale after speaking about the economy and the Obama administration's policies, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Vice President Joe Biden gestures as he makes a joke during a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Former federal judge and former Rep. Abner Mikva, D-Ill, right, introduces Vice President Joe Biden to speak during a luncheon to mark the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2012 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden visits with patrons over lunch at Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio. Biden buddied up with bikers, posed for countless pictures at a pizza place. Obama goes airborne in a doozie of a bear hug with a pizza guy in Florida. Joe Biden cozies up with a biker chick in Ohio. Even the more reserved Mitt Romney seems to be loosening up some with people he meets on the campaign trail. Kissing babies and slapping backs are so yesterday. The 2012 candidates are putting their all into the campaign cliche of pressing the flesh. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) talks with mayors from across the country, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, in the Roosevelt Room of teh White January 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is holding its annual conference in Washington this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
In this Sept. 8, 2012, photo, Vice President Joe Biden exits Cardo's Pizza Restaurant with pizza in hand after greeting patrons in Jackson, Ohio. Biden buddied up with bikers, posed for countless pictures at a pizza place and downed an ice cream cone at a Dairy Queen over the weekend as he toured Ohio. Biden loves Ohio. The only question now is whether Ohio loves him _ and President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Vice President Joe Biden gestures during a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Vice President Joe Biden addresses the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Centennial Celebration luncheon in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Civil Society Forum on the sideline of the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, on August 4, 2014. Washington aims to wake up US business to the opportunities in Africa with the landmark US-Africa Leaders Summit this week, as China and Europe steal a march on the world's fastest-growing continent. As many as four dozen African leaders, and hundreds of businessmen with them, will for their part be looking to see if US investors and traders can move beyond old stereotypes of a continent mired in conflict and corruption and recognize its huge potential. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 18: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) swears in Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (L) as his wife Erica and daughter Carina look on during a ceremonial swearing in ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building August 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Castro, the former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was officially sworn in on July 28. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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US Presidential Barack Obama speaks on immigration reform beside US Vice President Joe Biden (R) in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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US Vice President Joe Biden adresses a speech to students and officials at Cotroceni Palace, the Romanian Presidency headquarters in Bucharest on May 21, 2014. Tougher sanctions must be imposed on Russia if it undermines crucial presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25, 2014, US Vice President Joe Biden said in Bucharest. AFP PHOTO DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: U.S Vice President Joe Biden speaks during an event on protecting students from sexual assault at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building April 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. During the event, Biden announced the release of the first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and outgoing Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius applaud as President Barack Obama names Sylvia Mathews Burwell (R), his current budget director, to replace Sebelius in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington,DC on April 11, 2014. Sebelius resigned, paying the price for the chaotic initial rollout of the US president's signature health care law. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden waves upon arrival for a meeting with Lithuania's President in Vilnius on March 19, 2014. Biden meets today with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian leader as part of a tour to reassure NATO allies during the Ukraine crisis. AFP PHOTO / PETRAS MALUKAS (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden listens during a meeting with the Polish Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland on March 18, 2013. Biden arrived in Poland for talks with regional allies as Russia tightened its grip on the Ukraine's breakaway region of Crimea. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden arrives for a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room of the White House on March 14, 2014 in Washington. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden during a joint press conference with Chile's President Sebastian Pinera (not framed) at La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, on March 10, 2014. AFP PHOTO/CLAUDIO REYES (Photo credit should read Claudio Reyes/AFP/Getty Images)
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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, looks on as President Barack Obama speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. Obama is meeting today with chief executive officers of companies from Bank of America Corp. to EBay Inc. who have committed to giving the long-term unemployed a better chance in the hiring process. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images *** Barack Obama; Joe Biden
US Vice President Joe Biden gives two thumbs-up prior to US President Barack Obama delivering the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on January 28, 2014 at the US Capitol in Washington. AFP PHOTO/Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Sept. 9, 2012, photo, Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands and takes photos with people in the audience at a campaign event at Milford High School in Milford, Ohio. Biden buddied up with bikers, posed for countless pictures at a pizza place and downed an ice cream cone at a Dairy Queen over the weekend as he toured Ohio. Biden loves Ohio. The only question now is whether Ohio loves him _ and President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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