Vice president decides to leave 'what could have been' alone

Saying, “I believe we’re out of time” to mount a campaign, Vice President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he would not run for president in 2016. The Democrat got his moment in the sun in the White House’s Rose Garden, with President Barack Obama at his side, and showed what a Biden campaign would have been like, with an impassioned defense of the current administration and a pledge to fight for middle-class Americans. In so doing, Mr. Biden provided more evidence that he would have enlivened the presidential debates and gone beyond dry policy points to talk about the personal circumstances of American families. It will remain a mystery as to whether Mr. Biden could have carried out the more mundane tasks of raising money and fielding an organization to actually win delegates to next year’s Democratic Convention.

Mr. Biden had been running third in most Democratic primary polls, behind Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and had approached the mid 20s before slipping back into the high teens as his weeks of indecision about running turned into months. Interest in a Biden candidacy may have peaked with his September 10 interview with talk-show host Stephen Colbert, in which the vice president candidly talked about his Catholic faith and his grief over the loss of his son, Beau, to cancer earlier this year. (I wrote about that interview here; also read “President Joe Biden and Other Crazy Ideas,” by America’s Jim McDermott.)

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Less than a day before his Rose Garden announcement, Mr. Biden got a taste of tougher media coverage, as CNN ran a story headlined, “Joe Biden changes story on Osama bin Laden raid,” implying that the vice president was trying to airbrush away his opposition to the 2011 raid by Navy Seals that killed the Al Qaeda leader. (“Mr. President, my suggestion is, ‘Don’t go,’” Biden said, according to an ABC News report from that time.) As an actual candidate, as opposed to a mythical savior of the Democratic Party, Mr. Biden would have faced a much more difficult Advent season.

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