NEWARK, Del. — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Tuesday that there’s “a consensus” in his family that he should run for president, but Mr. Biden said he did not want to embark on “a fool’s errand” and was still deliberating about whether to enter the race for the Democratic nomination.
“The most important people in my life want me to run,” Mr. Biden said, disclosing that he had a family meeting this month, which included his grandchildren, to discuss whether he should mount what would be his third presidential bid.
In the most detailed and unvarnished accounting yet of his thinking, the former vice president outlined a series of concerns about running. They included whether he would be able to garner enough money and support, and the nastiness of the campaign he predicted President Trump would run against whomever Democrats nominate.
“It would be the greatest honor of my life to be president of the United States, but it’s also something I have to make sure I could run a first-rate effort to do this,” he said.
It is not clear that Mr. Biden planned to speak, at least at such length, about the possibility of running. He was appearing before about 300 people at the University of Delaware to celebrate the naming of the Joseph R. Biden Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration. And he sat on stage for a conversation with the historian Jon Meacham about Mr. Meacham’s book, “The Soul of America,” which examines how the country overcame periods of division and turmoil.
But after the two spoke for over an hour, Mr. Meacham asked Mr. Biden directly about his intentions (Mr. Meacham told Mr. Biden before the session that he planned to raise the 2020 question, according to an official familiar with their conversation.) The 76-year-old former vice president — who has led in early Democratic primary polls — initially hesitated, praising an audience he said was mostly composed of Delawareans who knew him well. But that only prompted some in the crowd to stir.
“Come on, on say it!” one woman shouted.
Mr. Biden said he was “being prodded” by his wife and two children but acknowledged he had been uneasy about “taking the family through what would be a very, very, very difficult campaign” against Mr. Trump. “I don’t think he’s likely to stop at anything, whomever he runs against,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden said to applause that he would not “be part of any super PAC,” a posture other Democratic contenders have taken.
But he wondered out loud about the “alleged appeal that I have,” saying he wanted to know how deep it ran before he commits to running.
At one point he almost seemed to be trying to talk himself into it — “I think we can,” he said — before he was met with another plea from the audience. “Oh god, just say yes!” a supported yelled.
He said he was in “the final stages” of deciding. And in a brief interview after the event, Mr. Biden said that, if he ran, he would begin his campaign in the second quarter of this year, which could mean as early as April.
But Mr. Biden has been creating and blowing past his own self-imposed deadlines for months, and few of the aides who were in attendance dared to hazard a guess as to when he may ultimately decide.