“I also know that I could do this,” Biden said as he announced his decision on Wednesday. “Unfortunately I believe we’re out of time -- out of time necessary to mount a campaign for president.”
The 2016 candidates and observers had been holding their breath to see if Joe Biden would jump in, but his decision to sit on the sidelines allows some more pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.
Here are seven ways that the presidential race is likely to shift now that Joe Biden has finally said “no.”
1. Hillary Clinton’s wide national lead gets even wider.
2. It could open up a small lane for other Democrats.
Even though Biden never ever got in the race, roughly one-sixth of Democratic voters wanted him badly enough to choose him in polls anyway. And while most polls show that support going to Clinton, the door is open for Bernie Sanders -- and maybe even other Democrats like former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley -- to try to move into that space. It remains unclear whether the Biden “no” could prompt O’Malley’s rise or a strong coalescing around Sanders -- or whether, as the polls currently show, most of that support will go to Clinton.
3. Do establishment Democrats have a “Plan B?”
4. Biden would likely have dialed up pressure to push Clinton to the left.
Biden said in his address from the White House on Wednesday that “I will not be silent” -- but his jab at Clinton over calling Republican her “enemy” during the first debate and his comments about free college tuition would be much more effective in shaping the contours of the race if he were a candidate. With Bernie Sanders already in the race driving Clinton to the left in the primary fight, Biden’s vocal presence as a candidate in the race likely would have increased the pressure on Clinton to appeal to the more liberal wings of the party. We'll see if his positioning on the sidelines also allows him to turn up the heat.
5. Any holdout donors and endorsements waiting for Biden will likely move to Clinton.
6. Less competition in the primary battle could mean more of a challenge in the general election.
While some Democrats are glad that their likely nominee won’t need to go through a lengthy primary battle, her lead threatened by both Sanders and Biden, others think Biden’s candidacy may have actually strengthened her as the nominee. Sometimes a heavy vetting in the primary race can leave a nominee battered heading into the general election, while in other instances -- like then-Sen. Barack Obama’s lengthy battle with Clinton in 2008 -- can prepare them for the rigorous general election campaign.
7. Republican 2016 contenders can zero in.
GOP contenders have already been focusing the bulk of their attacks on Hillary Clinton, but now they can lock in their targets. There won’t be any Biden sideshows attacks from Republicans, trying to go after Clinton but also to damage Biden in case he were to pull off the upset. It also means that -- to an extent -- Clinton can also zero in on her Republican targets, only needing to differentiate herself from Sanders and not from an establishment rival like Biden.