Joe Biden knew he could beat Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination but decided not to run because he feared a “stop at nothing” smear campaign by her supporters, he reveals in a new memoir.
The man who served as Barack Obama’s vice-president remains a favourite among party faithful, many of whom believe he would have fared better in the states that delivered the White House to Donald Trump.
His words are certain to deepen splits among Democrats following their defeat and reignite speculation the 74-year-old is preparing for one last run.
In Promise Me Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose, due to be published next week, Mr Biden discusses his decision not to stand in the wake of his son Beau’s death.
He describes meeting Mrs Clinton in February 2015 when she was preparing her campaign and probing his plans.
Mr Biden said his son’s health was deteriorating and he did not feel able to make a decision.
“But if I ran, I told her, I would not run a negative campaign. She said the same,” he writes, in excerpts published by Mail Online, but then she added: “Although some of our supporters can get out of hand sometimes, it would not be me.”
After his son’s death, the Biden family had to deal with more upheaval when his other son, Hunter, left his wife for Beau’s widow.
That summer he received messages urging him to stand but had an ominous feeling that “the opposition research had already started on me”.
He does not say who the opposition was, but describes how negative stories began appearing in the media about past political positions.
“And Clinton backers sent the signal that they would not stop at voting records and policies if I did get in the race,” he writes.
He said the campaigns being run at the time were "dreary, small and personal" and that his family also believed "I was best equipped to finish the job Barack and I had started".
He avoids direct criticism of the eventual Democratic nominee but points out his strength of support in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida – crucial states won by Mr Trump.