Tuesday 12 December 2017

Boost for Hillary as Biden says he won't run for US president

Joe Biden and his wife Jill as he announces that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016
Joe Biden and his wife Jill as he announces that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016

Rachael Alexander

American Vice President Joe Biden has finally ended the 'will he or won't he?' speculation on Capitol Hill by declaring he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.

The declaration at once ends months of suspense and removes a huge political obstacle for the front-runner, Hillary Clinton.

"While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent," Mr Biden told reporters in the White House Rose Garden with US President Barack Obama and Mr Biden's wife Jill at his side.

"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," Mr Biden said.

In deciding not to run, Mr Biden (72) appeared to succumb to his own doubts about whether he and his family were ready for a gruelling campaign while still mourning his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in May. His son had urged him to run.

Ms Clinton's slipping poll numbers earlier in the campaign had cracked open a door to a late bid by the affable Mr Biden, leading to calls from his supporters to seek the presidency.

But what was widely hailed as a command performance by Ms Clinton in the October 13 Democratic debate turned the tide back in her favour and quieted talk that she was vulnerable in her quest for her party's nomination for the November 2016 election.

Ms Clinton's support among Democrats surged by 10 percentage points after the October debate, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed. She had the backing of about 52pc of poll participants, followed by US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 27pc. Mr Biden's support, at 13pc, was down 6 percentage points.

Mr Biden, who had been pondering a run since August, said he had concluded the window for mounting a successful campaign had closed.

"The process doesn't respect or much care about filing deadlines or debate or primaries and caucuses. But I also know I couldn't do this if the family isn't ready," he said.

Mr Biden had run for president twice before and was a US senator from Delaware for more than three decades. Mr Biden is popular with white, working-class voters, and he could still play a major role in the election if he chooses to endorse a Democratic candidate.

Also in the running for the Democratic nomination are former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Mr Biden ran for president in 1988 and 2008, both times dropping out early in the race.

He has been prominent for a vice president, with broad involvement in many of Mr Obama's foreign affairs decisions, such as the withdrawal from Iraq and his Afghanistan strategy. Mr Biden once boasted that he had "met virtually every major leader in the world."

He became something of a secret weapon for the White House on Capitol Hill, stepping in to negotiate tricky fiscal deals with Republican lawmakers.

Mr Biden, who has Irish roots and is Roman Catholic, won praise from human rights groups for saying in May 2012 that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage.

Many observers credited his comments for pushing Mr Obama to announce his support too.

The announcement was a disappointment for Mr Biden's supporters, who had pleaded with him to run for the presidency.

At the White House, aides and long-time Biden loyalists had prepared for his potential bid, putting together a campaign-in-waiting ready to move fast should he decide to enter the race.

Irish Independent

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