Carlos Barria / Reuters

Biden says will not run for president, leaves Clinton in pole position

Vice president says window has closed on chance to enter, but he ‘won’t stay silent’ on issues during 2016 campaign

Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he will not enter the 2016 race for the presidency, stating that the window had closed on his opportunity to successfully mount a campaign.

Speaking at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by his wife, Jill Biden, and President Barack Obama, Biden said the death of his eldest son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, who passed away from brain cancer in May, played a major factor in his decision.  

"The [grieving] process doesn’t respect or much care about things like filing deadlines or debates or primaries and caucuses," Joe Biden said. "Beau is our inspiration. Unfortunately, we believe we’re out of time — the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination." 

His decision finalizes the Democratic Party's field of White House candidates and sets Biden on a path toward the end of his decades-long political career. But he added that "while I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent" about the 2016 campaign.

Biden encouraged other Democrats running to embrace Obama's legacy and reject the divisive partisan politics that have thus far characterized the race. 

"Our nation will be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy," he said. "Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record. They should run on this record."

"I don’t believe that it’s naive to talk to Republicans," Biden added. "I don’t think we should look at Republicans as our enemies. They are our opposition. They are not our enemies. For the sake of the country, we have to work together." 

Encouraged by Democrats seeking an alternative to Hillary Clinton, he spent the past several months deeply engaged in discussions with his family and political advisers about entering the primary contest.

Yet as the deliberations dragged on, Democrats began publicly questioning whether it was too late for him to run, a notion that hardened after Clinton's strong performance in last week's Democratic candidates' debate.

In the end, Biden decided it was too late. 

Wednesday's announcement was a letdown for Biden supporters who had pleaded with him to run, in increasingly loud tones as his deliberations dragged on through the summer and into the fall.

For months, Biden, 72, made front pages and appeared on cable news screens as pundits mused about his prospects and Clinton's perceived vulnerability.

A super political action committee, Draft Biden, formed with the explicit goal of getting him into the race.

At the White House, aides and longtime loyalists prepared for his potential bid, putting together a campaign-in-waiting ready to move fast should he decide to jump into the race.

Last week one of those aides, former Sen. Ted Kaufman, wrote an email to former Biden staffers laying out the potential rationale for a Biden run and promising a decision soon.

Biden and his team lined up potential staffers and enlisted donors willing to help; he spoke with many supporters.

As speculation about his plans reached a fever pitch, he kept up an intense schedule of public appearances, seemingly testing his stamina for an exhausting campaign.

But he broadcast his reluctance to run amid doubts that he and his family were emotionally ready in the wake of Beau Biden's death.

In a September appearance on "The Late Show," Joe Biden told comedian Stephen Colbert he was still experiencing moments of uncontrollable grief that he deemed unacceptable for a presidential aspirant. "Sometimes it just overwhelms you," he said, foreshadowing his ultimate decision.

Biden would have faced substantial logistical challenges in mounting a campaign this late in the primary process.

Clinton and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders have been in the race since April — giving them a powerful head start in fundraising, volunteers, endorsements and voter outreach.

Democratic operatives and donors already committed to Clinton would likely have had to defect to Biden in order for him to have viable shot at the nomination.

Having decided against a final presidential campaign, Biden now approaches the end of his long career in politics.

A month after he was elected to the Senate in 1972 at age 29, his wife and their baby daughter died when their car collided with a tractor-trailer. He considered relinquishing his seat but instead was sworn in at the hospital where their sons, Beau and Hunter, were recovering.

Over six terms in the Senate, Joe Biden rose in the ranks to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, developing broad expertise in global affairs and reputation for a plainspoken, unpredictable approach to politics.

He twice ran for president. His most recent attempt, in 2008, ended after he garnered less than 1 percent in the Iowa caucuses. His first run ended even more quickly, in 1987, after allegations that he plagiarized parts of some speeches from a British politician.

He has not yet detailed his post–White House plans but has told friends that he has no plans to retire in a traditional sense. Although he is unlikely to again seek elected office, friends and aides say he has discussed starting a foundation, launching an institute at the University of Delaware or taking on a role as a special envoy and elder statesman if called on by future presidents.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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Joe Biden

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