Joe Biden passes on presidential bid -- but says he won't be "silent"

Vice President's decision follows months of speculation

Published October 21, 2015 4:25PM (EDT)

  (AP/Evan Vucci)
(AP/Evan Vucci)

Putting an end to months of public indecision and frenzied speculation, Vice President Joe Biden has decided not to enter the 2016 presidential contest, he announced in a White House Rose Garden appearance Wednesday afternoon. The move brings to an end a 45-year political career bookended by personal tragedy.

Though he will not participate as an active candidate, Biden vowed he will "not be silent" about the nation's future and that of the Democratic party.

Biden’s withdrawal from contention follows months of hesitation, marked by no fewer than a dozen different timelines for deciding on what will be his third presidential bid. The vice president’s indecision stemmed primarily from uncertainty over whether he and his family had the emotional energy for a grueling national campaign, just months after the devastating death of Biden’s elder son, Beau, who succumbed to brain cancer on May 30.

The younger Biden’s death triggered an outpouring of sympathy for the vice president, who had already sustained the loss, in a 1972 car accident, of his first wife and daughter. Many observers -- and apparently, for a time, Joe Biden himself -- initially concluded that Beau Biden’s untimely death was a blow so crippling as to foreclose a White House run. But on his deathbed, Beau Biden had reportedly implored his father to make the race, a factor that weighed heavily in the vice president’s deliberations, which began in earnest late this summer.

While Biden cautioned in interviews with America magazine and Stephen Colbert last month that he was unsure he had the heart for what promised to be an uphill campaign, he also hinted at how his personal history of tragedy and loss would inspire a bid.

“We feel self­-conscious about the focus on us,” Biden told America, speaking of his family. “I don’t want anybody feeling sorry for me.”

“Again, so many people have gone through so much more, with so much less support, yet they get up every morning,” he continued. “They put one foot in front of the other, and they move on.” Saying that his own father used urge him to “get up” after any setback in life, Biden added, “That’s what Beau expects his father to do. So we’re just getting up and moving on. We’re going to do good things, in his name.”

That compelling narrative aside, a Biden bid would have been an incredibly difficult slog. He’d have begun the race at a $60 million disadvantage to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and trailing both candidates in national and state polls. Though the preponderance of evidence suggested Biden’s path to victory was extremely narrow, his most fervent backers hoped that he’d throw cold calculation to the wind: From his earliest days in politics, Biden has craved the presidency, and knowing that he’d already lived his worst day, he could have entered the race far less daunted than most candidates by the possibility of losing a campaign.

Still, Clinton's strong performance in last week's solidified her hold on the Democratic Party's center-left, where Biden had hoped to compete, and though Biden associates signaled that a race was still a possibility, he said this afternoon that he ultimately concluded the road to a bid had closed.

Biden's withdrawal substantially boosts Clinton's odds of securing the Democratic nomination; polls show that the majority of his support accrues to her when Biden is removed from the field.

Watch Biden's announcement here:
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By Luke Brinker

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