After months of wavering, hand-wringing, delays, and speculation, Joe Biden told reporters at a hastily announced gathering at the White House Rose Garden, that he would not run for president, saying that he believed the window to launch a successful campaign had closed.
He said that although he would not be running for president, he would continue to take a vocal and active role in the life of his party and American politics to help the nation accomplish “extraordinary things.”
In a heartfelt statement that might have doubled a stump speech, he rededicated himself to a host of issues, including conquering cancer, securing social stability for the middle class, the advancement of equal rights for the LGBT community, immigration reform, 16 years of free public education, equal pay for women, and removing the “huge sums of unlimited and often secret money pouring into our politics,” which he said posed a “fundamental threat to our democracy.”
He said that each of these issues was, at root, about the same thing: dignity. He listed equality, fairness, and respect as the virtues that Americans should strive to secure for each individual. “It’s not complicated,” he said. “Every single one of these issues is about dignity.”
Hatred and division, he said, do not represent the heart of this country.
Although he had blown past deadlines before, there was widespread reporting on Monday that he would finally arrive at a decision within 48 hours. According to the White House, the president was scheduled to attend Biden’s announcement — suggesting that Biden would not run, since the sitting president would not be likely to align himself with any candidate in the primary.
On Tuesday, as pundits circled awaiting an imminent announcement, Biden fueled speculation when he attended a forum to honor Walter Mondale, and made a number of remarks touting his proximity to the president, closeness with various world leaders, and his early support for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, rolling back on claims he had made before.
He had also recently made comments distinguishing himself from current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, albeit without naming her.
Hillary Clinton said in a statement: “I am confident that history isn’t finished with Joe Biden. As he said today, there is more work to do. And if I know Joe, he will always be on the front-lines, always fighting for all of us.”
Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, tweeted: “I think Joe Biden made correct decision for him & his family. Personally, I would rather run against Hillary because her record is so bad.”
With the president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, by his side, Biden did not endorse any candidates.
The Draft Biden 2016 Super-PAC, which had been trying to rally behind a potential Biden run, issued a statement, expressing gratitude for the efforts of supporters. “While the Vice President has decided not to run, we know that over the next year he will stand up for all Americans and articulate a vision for America’s future that will leave no one behind,” the statement said.
Despite not being in the race, Biden had been polling significantly better than three men who were: Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb (who dropped out of the Democratic contest Tuesday).
Biden said Wednesday that he and his family had decided to work through the grieving process following the loss of his son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in May, before arriving at a decision whether or not to run.
Beau Biden had reportedly encouraged his father to seek the Oval Office.
Following the death of a family member, Biden said, there “would come a time, when you think of your loved ones, it brings a smile to your lips…. That’s where the Bidens are today — thank God.”
“The good news,” Biden said, “is that the family is ready.”
However, he said, in waiting, he had let pass the window of opportunity during which he could have mounted a viable campaign.
While he said he would not be a candidate, he vowed that he would “not be silent,” would remain active in the Democratic party, and would continue to build upon the successful work he had done as a member of President Obama’s administration, bringing the country “from crisis to recovery” and to the “cusp of resurgence.”
The American people, he said, had come too far and worked too hard to see the progress of the last eight years undone by Republicans determined to tear down what he characterized as “a really solid foundation.”
The Bidens “found purpose in public life,” he said — twice. “So we intend, the whole family, not just me, we intend to spend the next 15 months fighting for what we’ve always cared about.”
He continued: “I am absolutely certain we are fully capable of accomplishing extraordinary things. When we do America won’t just own the future — we will own the finish line.”
“I’m tellin’ ya: We can do so much more.”
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announces he will not seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination during an appearance with his wife Jill (R) in Rose Garden of the White House in Washington October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria