2012 VP Rivals Joe Biden and Paul Ryan Make Pivotal Career Moves Within Hours of Each Other

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The two men who faced off in the 2012 vice presidential debate both made announcements today.

For the Biden family, external pressure and internal deliberation ended when Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday he will not run in the 2016 presidential election. Chief among his reasons is the enduring grief following the loss of his son, Beau. The VP made the announcement from the White House flanked by his wife Jill and President Obama.

As he took the opportunity to address the country, it was clear his decision was not easily reached. In his speech, Biden spoke earnestly on the values and issues he believes are essential to the success of both the 2016 nominee and the country as a whole. Some say his call to further the Obama administration’s legacy and the lack of an endorsement suggest he still thinks he would be the best choice as Obama’s successor.

Biden stressed this announcement does not signal a retirement from public life by any means, an arena which he said gave him purpose. His speech championed the middle class in terms of social stability as a shield against inequality and called for increased action on social justice issues generally, citing the necessity for a level playing field. He also warned against military interventionism and condemned the influence of “secret money” in American politics. He attributed the country’s success to the existence of “possibilities,” even in hard times.

Biden’s entrance would have shaken Hillary Clinton’s current lead among the Democrats, and his decision not to do so consequently slots her as the top pick for the nomination. Many think his reference to “mean spirited and petty” divisive politics was a jab at Clinton’s comment during last week’s debate that it’s “naïve” to talk to Republicans. Biden emphasized they are not the enemy.

Republicans had an announcement of their own. Following private discussions Tuesday night, a begrudging Representative Paul Ryan said he will run conditionally for Speaker of the House.

His conditions hinge largely on the ability of his fragmented party to come together in his support. The major groups whose agreement he seeks are the moderates, the mainstream Republican Study Committee, and the most conservative faction, the Freedom Caucus.

Ryan called for an end to the stunts pulled by what he called “bomb throwers and hand wringers.” Today the Freedom Caucus is already showing signs of dissent. Ryan’s other conditions could inhibit their influence in institutional decision-making. Ryan wants to eliminate the ability to motion to “vacate the chair,” which would leave the speaker without a job.

Under these conditions, Ryan’s demand that he be the consensus candidate paradoxically highlights party divisions. The Freedom Caucus is now in a position where they would be held solely responsible for derailing Ryan’s candidacy if they pose an objection. Some worry Ryan is pushing too hard against a volatile force.

House conservatives have until Friday to accept Ryan’s terms and declare support for his candidacy. While the chairman of the Republican Study Committee has already requested an endorsement and two other candidates stepped aside, the Freedom Caucus has officially endorsed Daniel Webster from Texas, who promises serious reform to House operations to favor committee power. They show no overwhelming signs of changing their minds, and to win the group’s support Ryan needs an 80 percent majority under their bylaws.

Contact Staff Reporter Alma Velazquez here.