Joseph Robinette Biden stepped away from a third run for the White House on Wednesday, acknowledging the window has closed for a viable run and that the vice presidency will be as close as he gets to sitting in the Oval Office.
Biden, who announced his decision in the Rose Garden with President Barack Obama and his wife, Jill, at his side, ended months of speculation that he’d heed the deathbed plea of his son, Beau, and run for the presidency amid concerns that the controversy over front runner Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server could become a serious political liability.
Biden said that he knew as he and his family grieved for Beau that the window for mounting a “realistic” run for the presidency might close.
“I've concluded it has closed,” he said. His son, Beau, he said, remains the family’s inspiration. But, he added, “I believe we're out of time, the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination.”
Still, Biden vowed that he won’t be a bystander to the 2016 election, calling on Democrats to embrace Obama’s record.
“I believe that President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery, and we're now on the cusp of resurgence,” he said. “I'm proud to have played a part in that. This party, our nation, will be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy.”
He offered no indication of whether he’d endorse anyone, but said Democrats “should not only defend this record and protect this record. They should run on the record.”
Talk that Biden would run ramped up over the summer when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported that Biden’s son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in May, had in his final days, urged his father to run for the White House, adding poignancy to his deliberations. Biden pledged Wednesday to push for cancer research, saying “if I could be anything, I would have wanted to be the president that ended cancer.”
Talk of a Biden run reached a fever pitch in recent days when it appeared that Biden was criticizing Clinton while cementing his relationship with President Barack Obama, subtly criticizing Clinton for offering at last week's Democratic debate that she was proud to have Republicans as enemies, touting his expanded portfolio as a modern-day vice president and offering a revised version of deliberations over the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Biden’s candidacy was championed for months by an outside group, Draft Biden, which argued that the former Delaware senator’s “average Joe” personality and political history would make him a stronger candidate than Clinton.
Biden, though, would have started at a distinct disadvantage: no campaign staff, no campaign structure in early voting states and no fundraising dollars like Clinton and challenger Bernie Sanders have amassed.
Biden also faced looming questions about his candidacy with both he and Clinton appealing to the same Democratic Party constituency, and few polls suggesting that there was a hunger among voters for his candidacy.
And he would have faced questions about his age. Biden will be 73 in 2016 and would celebrate his 74th birthday two weeks after the election. That’s older than Ronald Reagan, who at 73 was the oldest president ever to be sworn in when he took office for a second term in 1985.