Vice President Joe Biden declared Wednesday he won’t run for president in 2016, ending a months-long consideration with a third White House campaign and setting him on a glide path toward the end of his decades-long political career.
Biden’s decision bolsters Hillary Rodham Clinton’s standing as the front-runner by sparing her a challenge from the popular vice president.
In an extraordinary appearance in the White House Rose Garden, Biden said he always knew that the window for a viable campaign might close before he could determine whether his family was emotionally prepared for another campaign so soon after the death of his son Beau from brain cancer in May. Biden said his family was prepared to back him, but that he nonetheless would not be a candidate.
“Unfortunately, I believe we’re out of time,” he said, flanked by President Barack Obama and Biden’s wife, Jill.
A Biden aide said the vice president made his decision Tuesday night.
Notably, Biden did not endorse Clinton or any of the other Democratic candidates. Instead, he used the announcement to outline the path he said the party should take in the 2016 campaign, including a call for them to run on Obama’s record.
Democrats responded with nearly universal praise for the vice president and support for his decision. Clinton, who spoke to Biden shortly after his announcement, took to social media to call him “a good friend and a great man.”
Republican contender Donald Trump praised Biden and took a poke at Clinton at the same time: “I think Joe Biden made correct decision for him & his family. Personally, I would rather run against Hillary because her record is so bad.”
Wednesday’s announcement was a letdown for Biden supporters who had pleaded with him to run, and in increasingly loud tones as his deliberations dragged on through the summer and into the fall.
For months, the 72-year-old Democrat made front pages and appeared on news programs as pundits mused about his prospects and Clinton’s perceived vulnerability. A super political action committee, Draft Biden, was formed with the explicit goal of getting him into the race.
Having decided against a final presidential campaign, Biden now approaches the end of his long career in politics.
A month after being elected to the Senate in 1972 at age 29, Biden’s wife and baby daughter died when their car collided with a tractor-trailer. Biden considered relinquishing his seat, but instead was sworn in at the hospital where his sons, Beau and Hunter, were recovering.
Over six terms in the Senate, he rose to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, developing broad expertise in global affairs and a reputation for a plainspoken, unpredictable approach to politics.
Biden 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 in 1987 ended even more quickly, following allegations he plagiarized in some speeches from a British politician.
He has not yet detailed his post-White House plans, but has told friends he has no plans to retire in a traditional sense. Although unlikely to again seek elected office, friends and aides say Biden has previously 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 upon by future presidents.