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There will be no new Joe Biden for president signs for 2016. The vice president had been deliberating whether to run for months. And today, with his wife and President Obama at his side, Biden said it was too late to launch a campaign. NPR's Tamara Keith was there in the Rose Garden for Biden's remarks.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Joe Biden was there to say he isn't running for president, but the remarks he delivered were a mix between the stump speech that could have been and a eulogy for his own political career.
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JOE BIDEN: I've had the great good fortune and privilege of being in public service most of my adult life, since I've been 25 years old.
KEITH: For months now, Biden and his family were trying to decide whether he should run, whether they could handle a campaign after his oldest son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in May. They were working their way through the mourning process.
BIDEN: The process doesn't respect or much care about things like filing deadlines or debates and primaries and caucuses.
KEITH: But those deadlines were coming, and many Democrats said he was already too far behind to catch up with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Biden says his family is ready now but...
BIDEN: 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.
KEITH: And there began a speech that was vintage Joe Biden - folksy with a little exaggeration and a lot of passion.
BIDEN: I know you in the press love to call me middle-class Joe, and I know in Washington, that's not usually meant as a compliment. It means you're not that sophisticated. But it is about the middle class. It isn't just a matter of fairness or economic growth. It's a matter of social stability for this nation.
KEITH: Biden called for free public college and improved childcare options. He talked about LGBT rights, immigration reform, equal pay for women, rooting out racism, even curing cancer.
BIDEN: If I could be anything, I would've wanted to be the president that ended cancer because it's possible.
KEITH: Biden has wanted to be president at least since the 1980s when he ran the first time. And watching his speech, you were left with the feeling he still wants it in spite of the choice he made not to run.
BIDEN: I've been doing this for a long time. When I got elected as a 29-year-old kid, I was called the optimist. I am more optimistic about the possibilities, the incredible possibilities to leap forward, than I have been any time in my career.
KEITH: But Biden's speech also took on the tone of a farewell.
BIDEN: And through personal triumphs and tragedies, my entire family, my son Beau, my son Hunter, my daughter Ashley, Jill, our whole family - and this sounds corny - but we found purpose in public life. We found purpose in public life.
KEITH: Biden concluded saying we can do so much more. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House.
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