WASHINGTON (AP) —Vice President Joe Biden will not run for president in 2016, he said Wednesday, ending a months-long flirtation with a third White House campaign and setting him on a glide path toward the end of his decades-long political career.
Biden’s decision finalizes the Democratic field of White House candidates and bolsters Hillary Rodham Clinton’s standing as the front-runner by sparing her a challenge from the popular vice president.
In an extraordinary appearance in the White House Rose Garden, Biden said he always knew that the window for a viable campaign might close before he could determine whether his family was emotionally prepared for another campaign so soon after the death of his son Beau in May. Biden said his family was prepared to back him, but that he nonetheless would not be a candidate.
“Unfortunately, I believe we’re out of time,” he said, flanked by President Barack Obama and Biden’s wife, Jill.
Encouraged by Democrats seeking an alternative to Clinton, Biden had spent the past several months deeply engaged in discussions with his family and political advisers about entering the primary. Yet as the deliberations dragged on, Democrats began publicly questioning whether it was too late for him to run, a notion that hardened after Clinton’s strong performance in last week’s Democratic debate.
Notably, Biden did not endorse Clinton or any of the other Democratic candidates. Instead, he used the announcement to outline the path he said Democrats should take in the 2016 campaign, including a call for them to run on Obama’s record. In what could have been a campaign speech, Biden deplored the influence of unlimited contributions on politics, called for expanding access to college educations and called on Democrats to recognize that while Republicans may be the opposition, they are “not our enemy.”
“While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent,” Biden said.
Wednesday’s announcement was a letdown for Biden supporters who had pleaded with him to run, and in increasingly loud tones as his deliberations dragged on through the summer and into the fall.
For months, the 72-year-old Democrat made front pages and appeared on cable news screens as pundits mused about his prospects and Clinton’s perceived vulnerability. A super political action committee, Draft Biden, was formed with the explicit goal of getting him into the race.
At the White House, aides and longtime Biden loyalists had prepared for a potential bid, putting together a campaign-in-waiting should he decide to jump in. Last week one of those aides, former Sen. Ted Kaufman, wrote an email to former Biden staffers laying out the potential rationale for a Biden run and promising a decision soon.
Biden spoke personally to many supporters. As speculation about his plans reached a fever pitch, he kept up an intense schedule of public appearances, seemingly testing his own stamina for an exhausting presidential campaign.