Joe Biden: I “would not hesitate” to run for president in 2016 if family can handle race

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Vice President Joe Biden

ATLANTA — Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he “would not hesitate” to run for president if he concludes that he can launch a “viable” campaign and that his family can make it through a presidential bid following the recent death of his son.

“If I can reach that conclusion that we can do it in a fashion that would still make it viable, I would not hesitate to do it,” Biden said at Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Atlanta.

Biden said he was still gauging his family’s “emotional energy” to join the race, calling it “the most relevant factor” in his decision-making process.

The comments are Biden’s first public remarks about the potential for a 2016 run since reports have surfaced that he is seriously weighing a presidential bid. He spoke about his prospects when he took questions from attendees after his speech, and the 2016 inquiry was the first question asked.

“I will be straightforward with you. The most relevant factor in my decision is whether my family and I have the emotional energy to run,” Biden told a crowd gathered for a foreign policy speech. “The honest to God answer is I just don’t know.”

Until now, Biden has been deliberating in private, consulting advisers about the wisdom of mounting a third bid for president and meeting with top Democratic figures like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Weighing heavily on Biden as he considers his 2016 prospects is the death of his son Beau Biden, who died in May following a bout with brain cancer. Several reports have suggested that as Beau Biden was dying, he urged his father to run for president.

“Unless I can go to my party and the American people and say that I’m able to devote my whole heart and my whole soul to this endeavor, it would not be appropriate,” Biden said. “And everybody talks about a lot of other factors: The other people in the race and whether I can raise the money and whether I can get an organization. That’s not the factor. The factor is can I do it? Can my family?”

Biden most recently addressed the potential for a 2016 run during what was intended to be a private call last week with members of the Democratic National Committee, to which CNN gained access.

Biden said then that he and his family were trying to determine whether they had the “emotional fuel” for a presidential campaign.

“If I were to announce to run, I have to be able to commit to all of you that I would be able to give it my whole heart and my whole soul, and right now, both are pretty well banged up,” Biden said on the call.

Biden previously sought the Oval Office in 1988 and 2008, dropping out of both races early.

Defending the Iran deal

Biden’s comments Thursday came as he addressed congregants in a speech that was supposed to center around the Iran nuclear deal.

Donning a yarmulke throughout the address, Biden embraced his role as a former “skeptic” of the Iran deal and explained why he now believes the deal is the best for the security of the U.S., the world and Israel.

But Biden’s speech only began addressing the Iran deal — which was billed as the centerpiece of the speech — after he used much of his time extolling the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

And as he claimed momentum in the fight against ISIS and touted the sanctions regime against Russia, Biden also claimed credit for his role in the administration and touted his closeness to the Jewish community and his role in supporting Israel.

“I take a backseat to no one in my support and commitment to Israel,” Biden said.