Joe Biden is staying out … via the AJC’s man in Washington, Daniel Malloy:
“Vice President Joe Biden will not run for the presidency, he said today at the White House, ending months of frenzied speculation about whether he would shake up the Democratic race.
“Biden announced a Rose Garden appearance just minutes before he walked out with President Barack Obama and his wife, Jill.
“Biden has flirted with a bid for months, a very public indecision combined with grief for the death of his son Beau. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton raced to build support and lay the groundwork for a national campaign — includinglocking down Georgia’s Democratic heavyweights.
“Biden said he concluded that his family is finally mentally healthy enough for a presidential campaign, but the window for one had closed:
“‘Unfortunately, I believe we’re out of time, the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination. But while I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent. 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.’
“Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had staked out ground to Clinton’s left, stoking the party’s liberal base. It left Biden without a natural space in the race — establishment or insurgent — and with all the drawbacks of getting in late in the game.”
Biden didn’t have a space to run in, and Clinton remains the heavy favorite to win the nomination (as I believe she would have been even if Biden had joined the fray). But he did have a role to play in the race, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Democratic primary plays out now in message and tone, even if the outcome is not in serious doubt.
As I wrote after the Democratic candidates’ first debate last week, Clinton is the clear favorite but Sanders is the stronger gravitational force within the party right now. His call for Americans to make a great leap forward to socialism resonates strongly with a party that has drifted further to the left than most of its supporters want to admit. His surprising success in the polls — combined with his obvious intent to shape the party’s platform rather than actually win its nomination — is pulling Clinton to the left. While no one would mistake Biden for Jim Webb, much less Sam Nunn, his entrance into the race probably would have pulled Clinton more toward the middle.
That won’t happen now, and no amount of “speak(ing) out clearly and forcefully to influence” his party will give Biden the same political weight that Sanders, as an actual candidate having relative success, will continue to wield.
In the same week that congressional Republicans may go a long way toward determining the GOP’s tone and message, by their united embrace or divided rejection of Paul Ryan as a potential speaker of the House, Democrats may now have their own marker for the moment their direction as a party was solidified.