After months of speculation, Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday he will not run for president in 2016, providing a boost to Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Biden began seriously considering a late entry into the race after the death of his son, Beau, who urged him to run. His decision to join the race seemed imminent as concerns grew among some party leaders about Clinton’s skill as a candidate, as well an ongoing scandal over her use of a private email server to conduct official business when she was secretary of state.
Surrounded by his longtime advisers, his wife and President Obama in the White House Rose Garden, Biden said he knew all along that his deliberative process might end with the window of opportunity for a presidential campaign closing.
“I’ve concluded that it has closed,” he said.
Biden said it takes time to put together a credible, national campaign. “Unfortunately, I think we are out of time,” he said.
Biden faced long odds. Although surveys have suggested he might be the strongest Democrat in head-to-head match-ups with Republicans, polls routinely put him third among likely Democratic primary voters. In addition, he has been gaffe-prone and was not a prodigious fundraiser in two previous presidential campaigns in which he never caught fire.
Still, his entry likely would have shaken up the Democratic race. With him officially out, Clinton would seem to have a clear path to the nomination that eluded her in 2008 when Obama upset her. Few analysts believe that Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old senator from Vermont, is mainstream enough to snatch the race from her.
As for Biden, he told reporters Wednesday that, “While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent.”
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He urged Democratic candidates to embrace and defend the Obama presidency, a seeming shot across the bow at candidates who sometimes have sought to distance themselves the president. Though he did not mention Clinton by name, the former secretary of state in recent weeks flipped her position on the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement that Obama has made a priority.
“They should run on the record,” he said.
Biden said he would continue to speak and recited a liberal laundry list of priorities, from immigration reform to new protections for gays, lesbians and transgender Americans. He said the party needs to make it its mission to help the middle class.
“That will be the true measure of our success,” he said.