If current Vice-President Joe Biden wants to jump into the race for the Democratic nomination, he’ll have to make a commitment soon – or pass on the opportunity altogether.

Were Biden anyone other than a sitting Vice-President, it would be too late already. On one hand, he isn’t attending the DNC meeting in Minneapolis this Friday with other Democratic candidates. There also are indications that he would skip the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus, even if he now chose to run. According to New Hampshire Democratic chairman Ray Buckley, missing the first two primary elections “has not served any candidate well.” Speaking to ABC News, Buckley added that “there may be room for Vice-President Biden, but time is running out.”

On the other hand, Biden has name recognition as well as a great deal of respect from the Democratic party as well as voters.  He may also get an endorsement from President Obama. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that President Obama considers his choice of Biden as running mate to be “the smartest decision he ever made in politics.”

There are two factors that might cause Biden to sit out the election. In May, he lost his eldest son, Beau, to brain cancer.  He was 46 years old. While the Vice-President did not specifically mention the family’s grief during a recent conference call with DNC members, he said:

We’re dealing at home with … whether or not there is the emotional fuel at this time to run…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…I’ve given this a lot of thought and dealing internally with the family on how we do this.

Although Biden’s age by itself is not necessarily a factor (at 72, he is the same age as Bernie Sanders), the added emotional strain of dealing with the loss of his son could, and having spent eight years in the White House, affect his ability to focus on the campaign.

There are also reasons as to why Biden may decide to run. One of them is Hillary Clinton, whose poll numbers are slipping, even as Bernie Sanders’ are rising.  Currently, Sanders is polling over twice as well as Biden – but the latter is still at 14%, and hasn’t even entered the race.  It may also be his last chance at the White House.  Biden will be 78, come 2021 –  the same age as Ronald Reagan when he left the White House in 1989. It would make Biden the oldest person to occupy the Oval Office in US history. The strain of the Presidency takes a toll on much younger men; Biden’s age would definitely raise concerns about his health and ability to cope with the rigors of the job.

There is one more powerful motivation for Biden to make a bid for the Democratic nomination: his son Beau’s dying wish. According to sources close to the Biden family, Beau urged his father to make one last run for the White House (Biden ran unsuccessfully in 1988 and 2008). He was joined by his younger brother Hunter.

Vice-President Biden is expected to announce his decision in late September or early October.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.