Biden not running for president
By Jonathan Starkey and Nicole Gaudiano – The News Journal
Vice President Joe Biden ended months of intense speculation on Wednesday, announcing in the Rose Garden that he would not seek the presidency.
Family members had signed off on a campaign, but Biden decided that he had too little time left to launch a meaningful challenge to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“As my family and I have worked through the grieving process, I’ve said all along what I’ve said time and again to others,” Biden said, flanked by his wife, Jill, and President Barack Obama. “It may very well be that that process, by the time we get through it, closes the window on mounting a realistic campaign for president. … I’ve concluded it has closed.”
Biden, 72, has been grieving and weighing family needs since his 46-year-old son Beau, Delaware’s former attorney general, died of brain cancer on May 30. Reports that Beau, in his final days, urged his father to run for president stoked national speculation about a possible bid.
Biden raised questions a number of times over recent months about whether his family could sustain a campaign, including during an emotional interview with Stephen Colbert on CBS.
“I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, number one, they know exactly why they would want to be president, and, two, they can look at folks out there and say, ‘I promise you, you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy, and my passion to do this,’” he told Colbert on Sept. 10. “And I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there.”
Biden and Jill told advisers on Tuesday night to prepare for an announcement Wednesday that he would not be running for president, according to former U.S. Sen. Ted Kaufman, who had been Biden’s Senate chief of staff before he was appointed to fill the seat when Biden won the vice presidency in 2008.
“We had the financial commitments, we had the top people for our organization but it was clear that we didn’t have the time and that the window had closed,” Kaufman said.
Delaware supporters expressed disappointment on Wednesday, but understanding for Biden’s decision. “The man has given us 40 years of public service. I’m not sure we’re entitled to ask for anything more,” said Stuart Grant, a Wilmington lawyer and longtime Biden supporter and fundraiser.
Said Delaware labor leader Sam Lathem, a longtime Biden supporter: “I think he really wanted to run. But being a realist, he just ran out of time. I think he is still the best for the country. Absolutely. If you just listen to what he had to say, you could feel the compassion, the love, the love of country, the love of state, the love of family. It was all there in what he was saying. If anybody could have brought this country back together, it was Joe,” Lathem said.
Biden’s months-long decision-making process and Wednesday’s statement were closely watched in Delaware, where supporters and friends gave Biden space to deliberate after Beau’s death.
“He’s obviously been through a lot,” said Rhett Ruggerio, a Delaware lobbyist and former national committeeman for the Delaware Democratic Party. “Everybody understands this decision is very personal. For Delawareans, he is beloved. I think everybody is supportive of the decision, considering what he has been through.”
Joe Conaway, the former Sussex County administrator and longtime Biden friend and political ally, spoke briefly with the vice president at the Sussex County Democratic Jamboree in late August. “How much can we expect from one person?” Conaway said in an earlier interview. “He’s done so much for this county, the state, the United States.”
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said he did not know what to expect from Biden as he neared a decision. “What I know is that everybody in Delaware is with the Bidens,” Markell said. “We all support him no matter what he decides. I had no idea. People have been asking me for months. I thought it was 50/50 because it was such a personal decision.”
Biden represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years before he was elected vice president. He took his first oath of office in January 1973 next to Beau Biden’s hospital bed about a month after a car accident that killed his first wife, Neilia, and their 13-month-old daughter, Naomi. The accident injured Beau and his brother, Hunter.
Biden spoke about Beau and his family’s grieving process during his remarks on Wednesday.
“As I’ve said many times, my family has suffered loss, and .. .I hope there would come a time, and I’ve said this to many other families, that sooner rather than later when you think of your loved one, it brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes,” Biden said.
“Well, that’s where the Bidens are today. Thank god. Beau – Beau is our inspiration.”
He used his remarks to say that the U.S. should increase its efforts to find a cancer cure.
“I believe that we need a moonshot in this country to cure cancer. It’s personal. But I know we can do this,” Biden said. “The president and I have already been working hard on increasing funding for research and development, because there are so many breakthroughs just on the horizon in science and medicine, the things that are just about to happen. And we can make them real with an absolute national commitment to end cancer as we know it today.
“And I’m going to spend the next 15 months in this office pushing as hard as I can to accomplish this, because I know there are Democrats and Republicans on the Hill who share our passion, our passion to silence this deadly disease,” Biden said. “If I could be anything, I would have wanted to have been the president that ended cancer, because it’s possible.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat who served with Biden in the Senate, said he spoke with the vice president in recent weeks, and “encouraged him to listen to his family as they all continue to grieve the terrible loss of their beloved Beau. I know he heard from people across the country who urged him to run and offered to help, but the most important influences on his decision were his wife, Jill, their children and grandchildren, and God.”
Biden, who has maintained a busy schedule while he simultaneously mourned the loss of his son and considered another presidential campaign, still pledged to be involved politically. And he urged Democrats to embrace President Obama’s record and political priorities.
“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,” Biden said on Wednesday. “And this is what I believe. I believe that President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery, and we’re now on the cusp of resurgence. I’m proud to have played a part in that. This party, our nation, will be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy.”
The vice president urged Democrats to work across the political aisle, saying Republicans should not be viewed as “enemies.” Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton included Republicans among her enemies during the first Democratic presidential debate on CNN, and Biden appeared to be criticizing those remarks in recent days. His statements appeared to draw a contrast with Clinton, leading some to believe that he was preparing to enter the race. But that speculation ended Wednesday.
“I believe that we have to end the divisive partisan politics that is ripping this country apart,” Biden said. “And I think we can. It’s mean-spirited, it’s petty, and it’s gone on for much too long. I don’t believe, like some do, that it’s naive to talk to Republicans. I don’t think we should look at Republicans as our enemies. They are our opposition. They’re not our enemies. And for the sake of the country, we have to work together. As the president has said many times, compromise is not a dirty word.”
Former Delaware House Speaker Bob Gilligan, a top Democratic party officer in Delaware, said he listened to Biden’s statements from his car. “When I heard it was going to be from the Rose Garden, I knew he wasn’t running,” Gilligan said. “He did what was best for his family. I’m sure it was a very, very difficult decision, a very emotional decision. I still think you’ll hear a lot from him.”
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, who now occupies Biden’s old Senate seat, reacted to the decision on Wednesday. “As always in his career, Joe Biden is putting his family first, and I am confident he will continue to add his important voice to our nation’s ongoing debate about security in an uncertain world and opportunity for the middle class,” Coons said in a statement. “I support his decision and look forward to continuing to work together.”
Biden had been the subject of an intense effort to lure him into the race. The Draft Biden super PAC hired staff in early voting states, raised funds for independent expenditures in support of his possible candidacy, and launched national television advertisements urging Biden to join the 2016 campaign. Close Biden supporters even joined the group, including Josh Alcorn, who had been Beau Biden’s political director and top fundraiser.
“We are so grateful for the gigantic outpouring of support from hundreds of thousands of Americans around the country in our effort to encourage the vice president to run,” said Will Pierce, executive director of Draft Biden. “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.”
Had he joined the race, Biden would have faced significant organizational challenges. Armies of volunteers and staff already are helping former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and other candidates.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump celebrated Biden’s exit from the presidential discussion on Wednesday, tweeting that he would prefer to face Clinton in a general election “because her record is so bad.”
“I think Joe Biden made correct decision for him & his family. Personally, I would rather run against Hillary because her record is so bad.” — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2015
Biden’s candidacy presumably would have taken away some support from Clinton. He was capturing about 18 percent support in Democratic polling this week. In a statement, Sanders called Biden a “good friend” and thanked the vice president for a “lifetime of public service and for all that he has done for our nation.”
Clinton called Biden a “good man and a great vice president,” saying “history isn’t finished with Joe Biden.”
The national Democratic party also applauded Biden’s record.
“I appreciate Vice President Joe Biden giving thoughtful consideration to seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2016,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat and chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a written statement after Biden’s announcement. “While Vice President Biden will not be a candidate next year, his unwavering commitment to America’s working families is a legacy each of our candidates will proudly carry forward.”
Before becoming vice president, Biden served stints as chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees. He has been an unusually active vice president, partly because of his long-standing relationships with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
He has negotiated down-to-the-wire agreements on fiscal issues, including proposals to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, legislation to increase the nation’s borrowing limit, and a strategy for avoiding the “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and tax increases in 2013.
Biden was dubbed “Sheriff Joe” for his oversight of the 2009 economic stimulus program and he oversaw the drawdown of troops in Iraq in 2010.
More recently, the White House tapped Biden to lobby members of Congress to support the nuclear agreement with Iran. Biden withdrew from the 2008 Democratic presidential primary race after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses. He dropped out of the 1988 race amid reports he had plagiarized a portion of a speech that he said he had forgotten to attribute.
G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, said he expects Biden to write his memoirs now that the presidential campaign question is behind him. And Biden still could put his decades of experience at public speaking to work.
“He’ll be very popular on the lecture tour. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Madonna said.