Biden finally made his choice.
At a hastily assembled press conference in the rose garden, VP Joe Biden said the window on a presidential run “has closed.”
“I also know I couldn’t do this if the family wasn’t ready, the good news is, the family has reached that point,” he said. “But as I have said many times my family has suffered loss and I hoped there would come a time...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, well that’s where the Bidens are today. Thank God.”
He added, “Beau was our inspiration, unfortunately, I believe we are out of time.”
It brings to an end months of speculation as the vice president slowly moved from grieving publicly for his son, Beau, who died of cancer in May, to giving the fiery, populist speeches before friendly crowds across the country.
With each appearance, the chatter grew—every turn of phrase, motion, vocal pattern analyzed and reanalyzed—as a loyal band of former Biden staffers fanned the speculation flames.
When it appeared that his chances were dead after Hillary Clinton’s impressive debate performance in Las Vegas, former Sen. Ted Kaufman, a longtime Biden friend, sent out a letter to Biden alums, asking them to hold off moving on until Biden decided.
It quickly leaked to the media.
“I know in the daily ups and down of the political swirl, we all get bombarded with the tactics,” according to a copy of the letter posted by CNN. “So sometimes it’s good to take a step back and get real again. Let’s stay in touch. If he decides to run, we will need each and every one of you—yesterday!”
This letter was followed by leaks of Biden calls with labor leaders and others who confided they thought he was on his way to launch a serious run.
In truth, Biden would have faced serious headwinds.
A recent Quinnipiac poll showed Biden with higher favorability than Clinton as well as high marks on trustworthiness, whether he cares about needs of everyday voters, and leadership ability in key swing states Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Yet, even at her lowest moments of the summer, Clinton was out-polling her former colleague nationally. The most recent RealClearPolitics average has Biden at 19 percent versus Clinton’s nearly 44 percent.
But as he waited the American public appeared to lose patience.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll on Tuesday showed 38 percent of those surveyed preferred Biden not run, with 30 percent in favor and 31 percent with no opinion.
Historically the odds were also against him. The last veep to walk into the White House was President George H.W. Bush. Only three others were elected to the position. Eight additional vice presidents became president in the worst way possible: the death of the sitting president.
Biden himself has run for president twice before, in 1988 and in 2008.
As he contemplated run Number Three in recent weeks, Clinton had taken pains to not appear to be rushing Biden, telling reporters in several variations that he should be allowed to take his time and announce his intentions when it was right for him and his family. Meanwhile, her camp was—somewhat implausibly—insisting they were not even preparing for a Biden run.
Asked by Jake Tapper on Sunday to answer for her campaign manager’s seemingly impatient remark last week, Clinton brushed it off.
“Well, and I think what John was saying is that, whether you are encouraging or not, there does come a point where a decision has to be made,” she said.
“But, certainly, I'm not in any way suggesting or recommending that the vice president accept any timetable, other than the one that is clicking inside of him. He has to make this decision.”
Still, he seemed to have fun the last couple days keeping the press and political prognosticators guessing with his veiled criticisms of Clinton during speeches yesterday and seemingly dropping hints that he may run. Even as he announced he wouldn’t be running he took a parting shot at Hillary’s debate comment that the Republicans were “enemies.”
“They are the opposition, they are not our enemies,” Biden insisted.
But at the end of the day, it just wasn’t meant to be.
While he’s not running, he promised he wouldn’t be silent as his tenure at the Naval Observatory winds down.
“We can do so much more,” he said, turning to Obama, who stood smiling next to him. “And I’m looking forward to continuing to work with this man to get it done.”