Ending many months of speculation, Vice President Joe Biden, with his wife, Jill, and President Barack Obama by his side in the Rose Garden at the White House Wednesday afternoon, told the nation that he will not be a candidate for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination.
“The window has closed,” Biden said at the start of his half-hour speech at the press conference that had farewell and campaign written all over it. “Though I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent.”
After explaining that the mourning period after the death of his son, Beau, had prevented him from mounting a strong campaign, Biden immediately lived up to that promise not to be silent. He said for the remaining 15 months as vice president, he will continue to speak on issues while upholding the objectives of the Obama administration.
“This party … our nation,” he said, “would be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy. The American people have worked too hard and we’ve come too far for that.”
It was clear from the moment the notice went out that Biden would be holding a press conference at the White House with Obama by his side that it was not going to be an announcement to run; that would have gone against protocol. Many pundits and consultants had told Biden that to enter the race would have been a huge challenge.
He had missed the first debate, the poll numbers were low, the campaign funds fell short of the money raised by Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders and he didn’t have the workers on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“If I could be anything,” Biden said, “I would have wanted to be the president that ended cancer.” It was brain cancer that killed his son back in May. At one point Biden was seriously considering running to honor his son’s last words that he would seek the presidency. “The White House should not revert to the Clintons, and the country would be better off with Biden values,” were the words Biden heard from his son.
Ironically, Biden’s announcement not to run has bolstered Clinton’s bid, pushing her lead over Sanders up 10 percent. According to her campaign team, they had been preparing a strategy to offset Biden had he entered the race.
Biden admitted that he took too long to make up his mind, and political experts were concerned that if he took so long to make up his mind, what kind of president would he be?
The window for that is probably closed forever for the 72-year-old politician, who has spent his adult life in office or fighting for one. Twice he ran unsuccessfully for president, and it may have been the possible loss a third time that helped him to decide not to run again.
Perhaps he heeded the words of Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, a powerful Democrat in the House, who coaxed Biden not to seek the office. He told Huffington Post that Biden can’t win the nomination on his own and should not enter the contest. “If I were advising him, I would not advise him to get in,” said Clyburn, 75, a top member of the House leadership and an influential figure in the Congressional Black Caucus. “In my opinion, he would not do himself any favors by getting in.”
Although he has not endorsed a candidate, Clyburn said he believes Clinton offers his party the best chance to hold the White House in 2016.