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It's All Politics

Why Biden Didn't Run, By The Numbers

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Clinton (purple line) is regaining some lost round lately, while Biden's (green) fortunes are fading the teeniest bit.
Real Clear Politics
Clinton (purple line) is regaining some lost round lately, while Biden's (green) fortunes are fading the teeniest bit.

In a Wednesday statement from the White House's Rose Garden, Vice President Joe Biden ended months of speculation, informing the country that he will not be seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

The decision likely leaves plenty of Biden supporters disappointed, but when you look at the numbers — polling, fundraising and endorsement data — they show he would have had to clear some pretty big hurdles to win the nomination.

Here's a rundown:

1. He still lags far behind Clinton and Sanders in the polls

Organizations like Real Clear Politics have been tracking national poll readings throughout the election. And, according to the latest RCP polling average, Biden's support among Democrats is at around 17 percent right now. Compare that to Clinton's nearly 48 percent.

Biden's total is respectable for someone not in the race, and he could also have had a good-size bounce from an announcement. It's possible that people weren't supporting him, because he wasn't formally running. Not only that, but his favorability ratings have generally been higher than Clinton's among all voters. Altogether, he could be a formidable contender.

Support comes from

A 30-point lead is a heck of a a lead to contend with — not that those don't change, but Bernie Sanders made up his ground, not at this late stage, but over the summer. That allowed him to raise money and build the kind of field organization that could win the early states. Biden would be starting nearly from scratch. Speaking of those early states, Biden's numbers in Iowa, for example, are almost equally weak, while in New Hampshire, they're worse.

2. Clinton is regaining (a little) lost ground

Take a look at that chart again. Biden has a little down tick at the end, while Clinton is starting to climb again. Clinton's strong debate performance probably helped her in the last week's round of polls. It also shows that to the extent the Benghazi and email scandals are hurting her, she has the capacity to regain at least some of that lost support.

3. Powerful people like her

Clinton has a commanding lead in endorsements — thus far, she has nine governors, 31 senators, and 117 representatives behind her, according to FiveThirtyEight's endorsement tracker. And Clinton has quickly been amassing the support of delegates, who will eventually choose the nominee. As with polling, this is another place Biden would have a big game of catch-up to play. And poltical scientists will tell you, almost nothing is a better indicator of whether someone will get the nomination than endorsements.

4. Money, money, money

Biden could have some advantages here — for example, he could reach out to the donors who supported him and Obama in their two successful bids for the White House. But many of those donors have already given to Clinton or Sanders, so there's no guarantee they'd come back to Biden.

And more importantly, he's starting from zero. In the money-centric race for the presidency, Clinton has a commanding lead, and she and Sanders both have a huge head start on the vice president.

None of this is to say Biden couldn't have won. But it would have been a huge climb, especially this late in the game.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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