Though Biden said his family is far enough into their grief to handle the rigors of a presidential campaign, there’s too little time to make the prospect viable.
“Unfortunately, I believe we're out of time; the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination," Biden said.
“The [grieving] process doesn't respect or much care about things like filing deadlines or debates and primaries and caucuses," Biden said. "But I also know that I couldn't do this if the family wasn't ready.
“The good news is that the family has reached that point, but as I have said many times, my family has suffered loss, and I hope there would come a time -- and I have said it 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.
“Well, that is where the Bidens are today. Thank god. Beau is our inspiration."
Biden's announcement today has put to rest months of speculation about whether the vice president would seek the White House.
And though Biden will not be a candidate, he said today he intends to continue to use his platform as vice president to influence the direction of the country and seal the president’s legacy.
“While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent,” Biden said. “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. This is what I believe.
“I believe that President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery, and we are now on the cusp of resurgence. I'm proud to have played a part in that.”
Among the most pressing work that remains to be done in the remaining 15 months of Obama’s presidency, Biden said, will be making sure the middle class is on a solid foundation, saying that the “current levels of inequality” in the country cannot be allowed to persist.
“It all starts with giving the middle class a fighting chance,” Biden said. “It is not just a matter of fairness or economic growth, it is a matter of social stability for this nation. We cannot sustain the current levels of inequality that exist in this country. I believe the huge sums of unlimited and often secret money pouring into our politics is a fundamental threat to the democracy, and I really mean that.”
It’s a principle that would have likely been central to a Biden candidacy, had he decided to run. Biden’s longtime political confidantes Ted Kaufman revealed recently in a letter to former Biden staff that if the vice president were to run, he would have based his campaign on “his burning conviction that we need to fundamentally change the balance in our economy and the political structure to restore the ability of the middle class to get ahead.”
And in a reference to his son’s battle with brain cancer, Biden made an impassioned political plea that more needs to be done to work toward finding a cure.
“If I could be anything, I would have wanted to be the president that ended cancer," Biden said.
“I believe we need a moonshot in this country to cure cancer. It is personal. I know we can do this," he 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 vice president’s deliberation over a potential 2016 run played out in an unusually public and emotional manner.
Speculation first began to swirl that the vice president might be taking a look at a presidential run after The New York Times' Maureen Dowd reported in August that Biden’s late son Beau had encouraged his father to run for president in 2016 prior to his death.
Biden has said publicly that the biggest factor in his decision-making process had been whether he and his family had the “emotional energy” for the endeavor following Beau’s death and told Stephen Colbert in an emotional interview in early September that he’d “be lying” if he said he were ready to commit the “110 percent” to campaign at that time.
“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, number two, they can look folks out there and say, ‘I promise you, you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy, and my passion to do this,’” Biden told Colbert in early September. “I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there.”
Draft Biden, a super-PAC that sought to draw the vice president into the 2016 race, spent the past two months paving the way for a potential Biden run. They recruited staffers and volunteers for all 50 states and aired an ad before the first Democratic debate earlier this month highlighting the vice president's advocacy for working families. Following the vice president's announcement today, the Executive Director of Draft Biden issued a statement expressing gratitude for the “outpouring of support” as the vice president weighed a White House bid.
"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," Executive Director Will Pierce said. "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."