Joe Biden is out, but he’s not down

The Joe Biden perpetual trial balloon, more than six years in the making, finally popped Wednesday.

The is-he-in-or-is-he-out guessing game was starting to hurt the vice president’s reputation instead of enhancing his status within the party as the obvious choice if something happened to Hillary Clinton.

We'll probably never know just what he was thinking in the two months of mounting speculation since August. Maybe he was undecided until the last minute. Maybe he fully intended to announce his candidacy but found there was little interest among voters or party actors. In any case, whatever he thought he was doing, he was running as Clinton’s understudy. And he’s probably locked up that job.

The Upshot’s Nate Cohn gets it right: Clinton has again proven her strength within the party. I’d say that Biden was already solidly defeated last spring or earlier, when Clinton’s endorsement count started rising.

Biden clearly has wanted to be president, but the Democratic Party has never particularly been eager. Nevertheless, he was a first-rate senator for a long time, and a practically perfect veep. These last few weeks, when people were impatient for a final announcement, will rapidly be forgotten and won’t affect his reputation.

We remember presidents. And politicians who attempted to become president often are remembered for their loss (Hubert Humphrey, Bob Dole). That’s wrong. A first-rate governor, senator or member of the House makes a huge difference to enormous numbers of citizens.