After weighing a presidential bid for several months, while also mourning the death of his eldest son, Beau Biden, in May, the vice president announced on Wednesday that he is not joining the 2016 race.
“As my family and I have worked through the grieving process, I’ve said all along … it may very well be that that [grieving] process, by the time we get through it, closes the window on mounting a realistic campaign for president – that it might close. I’ve concluded it has closed,” he said in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by President Obama and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden.
Biden said his hurting family had finally reached the point where thinking about Beau “brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye.”
“That’s where the Bidens are today, thank God,” he said. “Beau is our inspiration. Unfortunately, I believe we’re out of time – the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination.”
“But while I will not be candidate, I will not be silent,” he added. “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.”
And he plunged right in, giving a 13-minute speech that reached from the plight of the middle class to immigration reform to curing cancer.
“If I could be anything,” Biden said, “I would have wanted to be the president who ended cancer, because it’s possible.”
He never mentioned the Democratic front-runner he was poised to challenge, Hillary Clinton. Within the hour she personally Tweeted her response:
At the White House, the vice president’s closest friends and confidants – his sister, Valerie, former Sen. Ted Kaufman and several long-time advisers – were seated in the Rose Garden for Biden’s stoic statement, which was a surprise to the White House press corps and announced with just 10 minutes notice.
Biden previously expressed concern that he may not have the emotional strength to run for president as he and his family continued to grieve Beau’s death.
In early October, a “Draft Biden” super PAC released a campaign ad urging him to take the plunge with the slogan “Joe, Run.”
Kaufman, the vice president’s former Senate chief of staff, kept Biden supporters’ hopes alive as recently as last week. In a letter emailed to Biden supporters Oct. 15 and first reported by the Associated Press, Kaufman, one of Biden’s closest advisers, wrote, “He believes we must win this election. Everything he and the president have worked for – and care about – is at stake.”
Kaufman also outlined what the vice president’s campaign would look like:
It will be, “an optimistic campaign. A campaign from the heart. A campaign consistent with his values, our values, and the values of the American people.”
“And I think it’s fair to say, knowing him as we all do, that it won’t be a scripted affair – after all, it’s Joe.”