US vice president Joe Biden has admitted that he decided against running for the White House because he “couldn’t win” – not because he would have had too little time to get a campaign up and running.
“I’ll be very blunt. If I thought we could have put together the campaign that our supporters deserve and our contributors deserved I would have done it,” he said on CBS’s 60 Minutes TV programme.
In the wide-ranging interview, in which Biden took questions for a time joined by his wife, Jill, he also said he would not have got into the 2016 race just to stop Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“I’ve said from the beginning, ’Look, I like Hillary. Hillary and I get along together’,” he said. “The only reason to run is because ... I still think I could do a better job than anybody else could do.”
He used the interview to play down suggestions his announcement not to run, made at the White House on Wednesday with President Barack Obama at his side, included a jab at Mrs Clinton.
At the White House event, Mr Biden, 72, lamented partisan bickering in Washington politics and said: “I don’t think we should look at Republicans as our enemies.”
Mrs Clinton had made a statement to that effect during the Democratic presidential debate earlier this month.
“That wasn’t directed at Hillary,” Mr Biden told 60 Minutes. “That was a reference to Washington, all of Washington.”
Mr Biden also sought in the interview to dispel recurrent rumours that his late son Beau, 46, who died of brain cancer earlier this year, had made a last-minute plea to his father to run for president. He said there was no such “Hollywood moment”.
“Nothing like that ever, ever happened,” he said. “Beau all along thought that I should run and I could win.
“But there was not what was sort of made out as kind of this Hollywood-esque thing that, at the last minute, Beau grabbed my hand and said, ’Dad, you’ve got to run’.”
The vice president said he wanted to continue to have a voice in party affairs and would speak up whenever he wished. He has not endorsed a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“I will make no bones about that,” he said. “I don’t want the party walking away from what Barack and I did.”
Mrs Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley remain in the race.