Joe Biden has finally given an answer to the question that everyone was asking. His answer is no. He won’t run for president.
“As my family and I have worked through the grieving process … I’ve said time and again that it may very well be that the process, by the time we get through it, closes the window on mounting a realistic campaign for president,” the vice president said yesterday, “I’ve concluded, it has closed.”
The announcement came days after rampant media speculation and Biden’s own criticism of Hillary Clinton since the first Democratic debate. For example, on Tuesday Biden said, “I still have a lot of Republican friends. I don’t think my chief enemy is the Republican Party. This is a matter of making things work.” One could only assume that this statement was in direct response to Clinton naming Republicans as an enemy she is proud to have made. (A statement that may come back to bite Hillary before November 2016.)
Biden also recently had this to say about Clinton’s work as the secretary of state: “I will get sent to go to speak with Putin or speak to Erdogan or go speak to whomever and it’s because the secretary of state—and we’ve had two great secretaries of state—but when I go they know that I’m speaking for the president.” Ouch.
It seems pretty clear that Biden isn’t very excited about Hillary, but he has decided not to challenge her. And for good reason. One doesn’t make a career out of being a politician without making savvy decisions along the way. This an example of one. Biden knows he would lose. Regardless of the obvious challenges ahead of Clinton, she has never dropped below 40% in national polls of the Democratic race. Even when the polls asked for voters to rank Biden with the Democratic nominees, Clinton is favored in a high plurality and occasionally in the majority.
Of course, it is still early. After all, Clinton was leading at this point in 2007 before Barack Obama’s charisma won him the nomination and eventually the presidency.
This is different, though.
I like Joe Biden as much as anyone but let’s state the obvious. Joe Biden is not Barack Obama. He can’t cross over generational lines, he can’t make history, and he can’t run to the left of Hillary on key issues. A master politician might be able to overcome this (like Obama or Hillary’s husband, for example), but not Biden. He has tried and failed twice to win the presidency and there is no reason to believe the third time would be the charm.
Biden’s decision to not run is certainly not for lack of desire. Yesterday’s announcement made that abundantly clear.
“This party, our nation, will be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy,” he said. “The American people have worked too hard, and we’ve come too far for that. Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record, they should run on the record.” That certainly sounds like a guy who wishes he was running for president on the coattails of President Obama. Especially the last sentence in which he offers unsolicited campaign advise to the current candidates.
The greatest strength of a Biden campaign would have been pushing compromise – an updated twist on “change you can believe in.” “I believe we have to end the divisive partisan politics that is ripping this country apart, and I think we can,” said Biden. “It’s mean-spirited, it’s petty, and it’s gone on for much too long.” Amen, Joe. Unfortunately, I’m not sure bipartisanship wins any points in our current political climate. Sadly, moderate politicians are dying a not-so-slow death.
This is all speculation, of course. We’ll never know how a Biden 2016 presidential campaign would have played out. All we know is that the vice presidency will be Biden’s last political gig and he’ll be ending his political career in better shape than most.