Joe Biden says he won’t run for president

Now ex-Rep. Lisa Heddens, D-Ames, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa.

Alex Hanson

Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday he will not run for the Democratic nomination, ending months of speculation on if he would jump in the race to challenge frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Speaking from the Rose Garden at the White House with President Obama and his wife, Jill, at his side, Biden said there is “no timetable” for him to mount a successful run for president. 

“As the family and I have worked through the grieving process, I’ve said all along what I’ve said time and again to others, that 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,” Biden said. “I’ve concluded it has closed.”

Biden said he and his family have been grieving since the death of his son, Beau, who died of brain cancer earlier this year.

While he will not be running, Biden said he will be a voice in the 2016 election by not being “silent,” and talking about where the Democratic Party stands on issues. He also said it would be a “mistake” for America to undo policies enacted during the two terms of President Obama.

“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.

Draft Biden, a Super PAC urging him to run, picked up supporters nationwide backing a Biden presidential bid, including state Rep. Lissa Heddens and Sen. Herman Quirmbach, both Democrats from Ames.

“I’m disappointed that he opted not to seek the presidential nomination,” Heddens said. “I do appreciate the time he took to mull it over. He’s gone through very sad circumstances, a lot with his son, and I know that played a part in his decision making. I think he’s doing what’s right for himself and his family.”

Biden deciding not to run leaves Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee in the race for Democrats.

Heddens said she continues to listen to all candidates and has not made a decision on endorsing someone else before the Iowa Caucus, which is currently scheduled for Feb. 1.

“I’m disappointed,” Quirmbach said. “I have huge respect for Vice President Biden. I think he has tremendous leadership skills, tremendous knowledge and expertise on all kinds of issues. I can’t image a person better qualified and I think he would have been very good and successful as a candidate.”

Quirmbach said after decades of service and recent grieving, he can’t “begrudge” Biden for his decision. He also said he has not given “much thought” on endorsing another candidate, but said he is happy with the current field of Democrats.

“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.”

Mack Shelley, professor of political science, said Biden opting not to run helps Clinton, as he lines up with her more politically, compared with someone like Sanders.

“It’s more likely to help her, than to help Bernie,” Shelley said. “It makes him more of a free agent, and based on one’s political perspective, if he endorses Hillary, that endorsement would carry a fair bit of weight with centrist Democrats.”

Democratic candidates also weighed in quickly, offering praise of Biden:

“Vice President Joe Biden is a very good and decent man who has served our country nobly, and his experience would have been a welcome addition to the Democratic race,” O’Malley said. “I will always admire his strength in the face of adversity and his passion for bettering our country. I respect Vice President Biden’s decision today and wish the vice president and his family well.”

Chafee praised Biden’s years of service, both as a U.S. senator and as vice president, and wished him “well” going forward.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump also weighed in: