(CNN) – While President Obama and his top aides have repeatedly said they're not even thinking about the 2012 campaign yet, Vice President Joe Biden revealed that they actually are considering it at least long enough for Obama to have recently asked Biden to run again as his running mate in two years.
A senior White House official confirmed to CNN the accuracy of the quotes Biden gave this week to The New York Times, but downplayed the significance of the comments by saying it's an "accepted fact" that Obama is likely to run for re-election again.
And after days of overheated media speculation about whether Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton may replace him on the ticket, the senior White House official said Biden was merely being forthcoming about a very brief conversation he had with Obama about their possible future plans.
"I tell you what, there's real trust, that's why he's asked me to run again," Biden told the New York Times. "Look, he said, 'We're going to run together, are you going to run?' I said, 'Of course, you want me to run with you, I'm happy to run with you.'"
It's hardly a shock that the President is likely to run for re-election, especially given the fact that CNN and others have already reported that top White House aides David Axelrod and Jim Messina are likely to leave Washington in early 2011 in order to help set up the re-election campaign in Chicago.
Nevertheless, White House aides have repeatedly tried to project the image that the President is not going to look past the 2010 midterm elections to begin considering 2012 machinations, and that he's far more focused on creating jobs in the short-term than mulling over politics down the road.
"I think the president, if he were here, would tell you that he spends next to no time thinking about his reelection in 2012 and spends his time with his team here working on how to strengthen our economic recovery," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at his daily briefing on Sept. 21 when a reporter asked a political question.
Gibbs added on Sept. 17: "I don't think the president has up till this point or does currently spend a lot of time thinking about the political season of 2012. That's - I think we'd all admit we're in the midst of the 2010 election season, but 2012 is a long way away. So I don't think the president spends a lot of time thinking about this."
The senior White House official said the Vice President's comments are consistent with the sentiment expressed by Gibbs and other top aides because Obama and Biden spoke "no more than 10 seconds" about the likelihood of them sharing a ticket again in 2012.
And after all of the speculation about a potential Obama-Clinton "dream ticket" recently sparked by journalist Bob Woodward, the senior White House official said Biden simply "told the truth" about the situation when asked about it by a New York Times reporter.
The speculation that Obama might dump Biden as his running mate and shift him over to the Secretary of State job in favor of Clinton was sparked by Woodward in an interview last week with CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
"It's on the table," Woodward said on John King, USA. "Some of Hillary Clinton's advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012."
Gibbs quickly poured cold water on the claim by saying, "No one in the White House is discussing this as a possibility."
It turns out that by his own acknowledgement, Woodward's claim was not based on inside information from the current White House, but instead came from a relatively old conversation he had with Mark Penn, one of Secretary Clinton's political advisers, for the journalist's new book "Obama's Wars."
"Well I said it's on the table but you know, it's like, you know, a book's on the table, you may read it in the summer," Woodward told Foreign Policy magazine.
Susan Glasser, editor of the magazine, pressed Woodward, "But you're not saying you have any independent knowledge of sources telling that right now President Obama is contemplating such a thing."
"No, of course not," said Woodward.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked during Thursday's briefing whether Obama has decided to run again in 2012.
"If he has, he hasn't told me," Gibbs said.
But during an event at George Washington University on Tuesday, Obama hinted at a second term:
“If you were excited in 2008, that was the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journey,” Obama said, adding, “To use a sports metaphor, it’s only the end of the first quarter.”
– CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report.