SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Netroots Nation wraps up its conference in Detroit this weekend - that's an annual gathering of those people who often call themselves progressives. In the hallways and the meeting rooms, much of the buzz has been about the presidential race in 2016 and who might run on the Democratic side. But as NPR's Brakkton Booker reports, Vice President Joe Biden, who gave the keynote address on opening day, didn't seem to factor much into that speculation.

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UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Can all of you give a boisterous applause to the vice president of the United States of America, Joe Biden?

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: Joe Biden has been President Obama's wingman on everything from the stimulus package to the Affordable Care Act. He was even ahead of the administration's position on same-sex marriage.

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VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We literally saved this country from moving from a great recession into a depression. And we established that progressive government did and does have a role in the economic health and well-being of the American people.

BOOKER: On foreign policy, he's been a key player for decades dating back to his days in the Senate. The vice president showcased those credentials as he explained why he was late to his Netroots speech. It turns out he was on the phone getting details about the Malaysia Airlines plane crash from the president of Ukraine.

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BIDEN: I was on the phone for the better part of a half an hour with President Poroshenko, and I've been in contact with our president as well as our national security team.

BOOKER: Biden has more than just experience. His political style is one-of-a-kind. He's known to give it to you straight - no filler. It's exactly what people say they want in a presidential candidate. But here, among the party's most progressive wing, that candidate ain't Joe Biden.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready for Warren? I'm ready for Warren? You ready for Warren?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm only ready for Warren.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get ready for Warren. Netroots is ready for Elizabeth Warren.

BOOKER: They're talking about Elizabeth Warren. Outside the main ballroom, where Biden spoke the day before, the group Ready for Warren is hard at work. They're passing out hats and signs trying to draft the Massachusetts Sen. for a White House run.

Another group that backs former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-sponsored a party last night. There was nothing like that here for Joe Biden.

Gabriela Lemus says she's been working in the progressive movement for years. And she talks of the vice president almost like they're related.

GABRIELA LEMUS: Uncle Joe? That's what we lovingly call him. He's our uncle. I look at it from a familial term. Like he's part of the family, you know?

BOOKER: Lemus says Biden's been a good adviser to the president, but admits a potential candidate Biden just isn't resonating with her.

LEMUS: Maybe sometimes if it's too familiar, you kind of overlook it even if it is the right person.

BOOKER: That's not the case for Rick Massell. He says there are many reasons why Biden shouldn't be the party's nominee in 2016. The main reason? Too many gaffes, he says.

RICK MASEELL: Maybe I'm being too hard on the guy, maybe it does make him more human and maybe we should have somebody who's more human, but he also misspeaks a lot. I don't know if he could ever overcome that.

BOOKER: Sandra Kurtz says, on the other hand, she's glad the vice president came the Netroots. Kurtz says sure, he's got the experience on both foreign and domestic issues, but she's just not quite sure what to make of a potential Biden run. And then it hits her - she says she's got the perfect job for him.

SANDRA KURTZ: For Joe? I don't know, personally I'd like to see him as VP for life, but that's just me.

BOOKER: The election is still a long way off. The vice president hasn't announced any plans for 2016 just yet. Though if Biden is doing his due diligence - kicking the tires on what would be his third run at the White House - he's still got quite a bit of work to do to excite the Democratic base.

Brakkton Booker, NPR News, Detroit.

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