Ending months of will-he-won’t-he speculation, Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he is not running for president in 2016, saying the process of grieving for his son Beau had sidelined him for too long.
“Unfortunately, I believe we’re out of time, the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination,” Biden declared in a hastily announced and emotional statement in the Rose Garden of the White House.
The vice president spoke with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and President Obama standing at his side.
The announcement capped months of speculation about whether he still had time to build the kind of fundraising and get-out-the-vote structure required for successful modern campaigns. Public opinion polls never showed him leading the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and veteran party strategists privately doubted he could seriously challenge her for the affections of party activists.
The announcement came one day before Clinton is to testify before the Republican-run House of Representatives committee looking into the deadly Benghazi attacks of 2012.
Biden, who has spent his entire adult life in politics and made two failed runs for the presidency, pledged to keep defending Obama’s legacy and fighting for the middle class, and warned Democratic candidates against running away from the president’s record.
“While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent. I intend to speak out clearly and forcefully to influence as much as I can where we stand as a party and where we need to go as a nation,” he said in an extended section of remarks that sounded very much like the stump speech he would have used if he had run.
Vice President Joe Biden with his wife, Jill, and President Obama on Wednesday after announcing that he will not run for president. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
“This is what I believe: I believe that President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery and we’re now on the cusp of resurgence. I’m proud to have played a part in that,” Biden said. “This party, [and] our nation would be making a tragic mistake if we walk away [from] or attempt to undo the Obama legacy. The American people have worked too hard and we’ve come too far for that. Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record, they should run on the record.”
Biden had long seemed eager to mount another presidential run, casting himself as the logical heir to the Obama legacy, and eager to turn two terms as a well-regarded vice president in a consequential administration into a shot at the top job. But Beau Biden’s battle with cancer and his death in May dealt a crushing emotional blow to the Biden family.
“As the family and I have worked through the grieving process, I’ve said all along what I’ve said time and again to others: That it may very well be that that process, by the time we get through it, closes the window on mounting a realistic campaign for president. That it might close,” Biden said. “I’ve concluded it has closed.”
The vice president pledged to devote his last 15 months in office to trying to rally Democrats and Republicans behind “a moon shot in this country to cure cancer” — the kind of full-government mobilization that made Neil Armstrong’s fabled “giant leap for mankind” possible.
“If I could be anything, I would have wanted to have been the president that ended cancer, because it’s possible,” Biden said.
Additional reporting provided by Hunter Walker.