Washington CNN —  

Joe Biden was in London on Wednesday. Giving a speech. And of course, someone in the crowd asked him about whether he was going to run for president in 2020.

“I am not a candidate at this point,” Biden responded.

“At this point” – !

What the former Vice President of the United States is saying here is, well, absolutely nothing. That he is not actively running for president on October 10, 2018 is no secret. It also tells us zero about whether he WILL be running for president at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Biden is far from the only probably-going-to-run Democrat who is using all sorts of present tenses and fancy footwork to avoid answering The Only Question Anyone Cares About these days.

“I’m not running today,” former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick told Politico’s Jake Sherman in late September.

California Sen. Kamala Harris told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt over the summer that she was “focused on a lot of other things as a higher priority” when asked if she was running for president.

You get the idea. The goal of all of these statements is simple: Say something (“yes, I am running” or at least “I am looking at running”) while appearing to say nothing at all. It’s saying “no” while nodding “yes.” It’s demurring, with a wink.

Think of what Biden and his peers are doing through the prism of that episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer becomes a missionary. Asked by his son, Bart, whether he is licking toads (a known hallucinogenic), Homer responds: “I’m not NOT licking toads.”

That’s what Biden, Harris, Patrick and the rest are saying: I’m not NOT running for president.

This is a time-honored tradition. People running for president have forever been denying they are running in this nanosecond in time right up until they announce they are, in fact, running. That this charade – a) fools no one and b) is dumb – seems not to have any impact on how often politicians still do it.

The Point: Barring some unforeseen event, Biden is likely to run for president. Ditto Harris. And Patrick. And the rest. (The Democratic field could be more than two dozen strong). That remains true – even if they aren’t running RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND.