Biden’s decision gains Clinton a Michigan endorsement

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Vice President Joe Biden’s decision Wednesday not to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 gained front runner Hillary Clinton a congressional endorsement in Michigan.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, has been among a handful of Democratic leaders in Michigan and across the country who were waiting to see what Biden did before choosing sides in the race.

Sounding relieved that she didn’t have to choose between the former U.S. secretary of state and Biden, Dingell said Wednesday she is now endorsing Clinton over Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose socialist policy views have energized the left wing of the Democratic Party in Michigan.

“I love Bernie Sanders, but Bernie Sanders can’t win a presidential election,” Dingell told The Detroit News. “We can’t afford to lose the White House next year.”

Biden’s decision is seen as one less hurdle for former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s long-presumed pathway to the 2016 Democratic nomination.

“For Democrats now, it’s Hillary or bust,” said T.J. Bucholz, a Lansing-based Democratic consultant. “With Biden not running, Democrats have avoided a major headache.”

But the outspoken veteran politician from Delaware did not endorse Clinton or even mention her by name.

In a Rose Garden address Wednesday at the White House, Biden said there’s no longer time for him to mount a successful campaign after his family spent much of the past five months grieving the death of his eldest son Beau, a former Delaware attorney general.

“Unfortunately, I believe we’ve run out of time — the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination,” Biden said in a campaign-like speech with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and President Barack Obama by his side. “But while I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent.”

Biden’s decision had as much to do about the financial and organizational challenges of mounting a campaign with the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses just over 100 days away, said Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Dillon doubts any Democrats will join the field, which narrowed Tuesday with the departure of former Virginia U.S. Sen. Jim Webb.

“If the vice president, who has access to a lot of resources within the Democratic infrastructure, concluded it was too late, I would think other people who don’t have that access would reach the same conclusion,” Dillon said.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee also are competing for the nomination. O’Malley will be in Dearborn Friday speaking with Arab refugees who have recently resettled from parts of the war-torn Middle East.

Biden indicated he would try to “forcefully” shape the debate over who should succeed Obama in the White House.

“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,” said Biden, who had a 36-year Senate career and has been one of Obama’s chief negotiators on Capitol Hill.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Clinton supporter from Flint Township, said Biden’s decision to remain on the presidential campaign sidelines gives him more political standing to influence voters.

“If he were a candidate, everything a candidate does is seen as self-serving and calculating,” Kildee said Wednesday. “I think in that way his voice could be a really important voice important in the 2016 election.”

During his 14 minutes of remarks, the vice president took a veiled shot at Clinton for saying Republicans are her enemies during last week’s Democratic presidential debate.

“I don’t think we should look at Republicans as our enemy,” Biden said, repeating a message he has made in the past few days. “They are our opposition, not our enemy.”

Biden said he would defend the policy decisions he and Obama have pursued — and he urged fellow Democrats to follow suit.

“This party, our nation, would be making a tragic mistake if we walk away from or attempt to undo the Obama legacy,” Biden said. “Democrats should not only defend this record, and protect this record, they should run on the record.”

Biden said his family was prepared for him to make a third bid for the presidency, but ultimately will support his efforts to help someone else win the White House next year.

“We intend to spend the next 15 months fighting for what we’ve always cared about,” Biden said.

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