Washington—United States Vice President Joe Biden said he won’t be a candidate in the 2016 White House campaign, solidifying Hillary Rodham Clinton’s status as the Democratic front-runner and the party’s likely heir to President Barack Obama’s legacy.
Standing under bright sun in the White House Rose Garden, Biden—after months of tortured indecision—spoke movingly about mourning the recent death of his son, Beau, a process he said does not match the political calendar. While he said his family was emotionally prepared to undertake a grueling presidential campaign, they arrived at that decision too late for him to mount a credible bid for a job that has long been the north star of his political ambitions.
“Unfortunately, I believe we’re out of time,” said Biden, flanked by his wife, Jill, and the president.
Biden’s decision puts to rest the uncertainty hanging over the Democratic primary. The race now will likely settle into a two-person contest between Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has energized the party’s liberal base, but lacks Clinton’s campaign infrastructure and support from party leaders.
Biden was seen by some Democrats as an ideal blend of Clinton’s establishment credentials and Sanders’ populist appeal. Interest in his potential candidacy was fueled both by an outpouring of affection after his son succumbed to cancer in May and the persistent questions about Clinton’s viability, particularly amid revelations about her controversial e-mail use at the US State Department.
However, Clinton appeared to calm nervous supporters with a commanding performance in the recent Democratic debate. What was already a narrow path to the presidency for Biden appeared to get even smaller.
In a written statement last Wednesday, Clinton praised Biden’s “unyielding faith in America’s promise” and said she expected he would “always be on the front lines, always fighting for all of us.” The two spoke by phone shortly after the vice president concluded his remarks.
Biden notably did not endorse a candidate in the Democratic race. Instead, he delivered a 13-minute speech that very well could have been a platform for the campaign he’ll never run. He decried the role of big money in politics and touted the importance of reducing income inequality and making college education more accessible, issues with significant support among liberals.
He also repeated a veiled criticism of Clinton that had crept into his speeches in recent days, saying Democrats should not view Republicans as their enemies. Clinton said in the debate that she was proud to count the Republicans among the enemies she’s made during her political career.
Biden’s decision gives Clinton a boost heading into her testimony before a Republican-led House committee investigating the deadly attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, three years ago. With Biden out of the race, Clinton’s campaign sees the hearing as a final hurdle before she can fully focus on early voting contests in the states of Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere.
For many Republicans, Biden’s decision comes as a disappointment. Party leaders had all but cheered his potential candidacy, eager to see the Democratic race thrown into chaos and, perhaps, distract attention from a Republican primary that’s been roiled by the rise of unorthodox candidates, such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
Trump praised Biden and took a poke at Clinton in a single tweet: “I think Joe Biden made correct decision for him & his family. Personally, I would rather run against Hillary because her record is so bad.” AP