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Ex-VP Biden Launches 2020 Pres. Bid    04/25 06:24

   Former Vice President Joe Biden formally joined the crowded Democratic 
presidential contest on Thursday, declaring the soul of the nation at stake if 
President Donald Trump wins re-election.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden formally joined the 
crowded Democratic presidential contest on Thursday, declaring the soul of the 
nation at stake if President Donald Trump wins re-election.

   In a video posted on Twitter, Biden focused on the 2017 deadly clash between 
white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Biden 
noted Trump's comments that there were some "very fine people" on both sides of 
the violent encounter, which left one woman dead.

   "With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral 
equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand 
against it," Biden said. "And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation 
was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime."

   "We are in the battle for the soul of this nation," Biden continued. "If we 
give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and 
fundamentally alter the character of this nation --- who we are. And I cannot 
stand by and watch that happen."

   The 76-year-old Biden becomes an instant front-runner alongside Vermont Sen. 
Bernie Sanders, who is leading many polls and has proved to be a successful 
fundraiser . Among Democrats, Biden has unmatched international and legislative 
experience, and he is among the best-known faces in U.S. politics.

   Biden is betting that his working-class appeal and ties to Barack Obama's 
presidency will help him overcome questions about his place in today's 
increasingly liberal Democratic Party. Obama did not endorse Biden on Thursday 
but did take the unusual step of weighing in on the race. An Obama spokeswoman 
said selecting Biden as his running mate in 2008 was "one of the best decisions 
he ever made."

   Biden's announcement marks the unofficial end of the chaotic early phase of 
the 2020 presidential season. The field now features at least 20 Democrats 
jockeying for the chance to take on Trump next year. Several lesser-known 
candidates may still join the race.

   But the anti-establishment wave that swept Trump into office has not been 
kind to either party's statesmen. Biden's team worries about his fundraising 
ability and his tendency to commit gaffes. His centrist approach in a party 
moving left on major policy debates raises questions about his appeal.

   Four years Trump's senior, Biden would be the oldest person ever elected 
president should he win. Yet his allies believe the skeptics will ultimately 
warm to his strong connections to the Obama years.

   Biden has said he would campaign as an "Obama-Biden Democrat," who is as 
pragmatic as he is progressive. He's aiming to be a conduit between 
working-class white voters and the younger, more diverse voters who backed 
Obama in historic numbers.

   Just minutes after the announcement, the GOP lashed out against Biden's 
record in the Obama administration, a line of attack in sharp contrast with 
recent criticism against other 2020 Democrats that has largely focused on them 
being too liberal, or even socialists.

   "Biden's fingerprints are all over foreign policy blunders and the weakest 
economic recovery since World War II," Republican National Committee spokesman 
Michael Ahrens said. "We don't need eight more years of Biden. Just ask 
President Obama, who isn't even endorsing his right-hand man."

   While it's true that Obama hasn't explicitly endorsed Biden's bid, the 
former president weighed in on Thursday's announcement through a spokeswoman.

   "President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate 
in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made," Obama spokeswoman Katie 
Hill said. "He relied on the vice president's knowledge, insight, and judgment 
throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special 
bond over the last 10 years and remain close today."

   Biden's team also touted immediate endorsements from Pennsylvania Sen. Bob 
Casey and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons. None of the other Democrats running for 
president has the backing of more than one U.S. senator.

   Privately, Trump allies have warned that Biden might be the biggest 
re-election threat given the former vice president's potential appeal among the 
white working class in the Midwest, the region that gave Trump a path to the 
presidency.

   Biden is paying special attention to Pennsylvania, a state that swung to 
Trump in 2016 after voting for Democratic presidential candidates for decades.

   The former vice president will be in the state three times within the 
opening weeks of his campaign. He'll be in Philadelphia on Thursday evening 
headlining a fundraiser at the home of David L. Cohen, executive senior vice 
president of Comcast. Biden is aiming to raise $500,000 at the event.

   He will hold an event in Pittsburgh on Monday and will return to 
Philadelphia in the next two weeks for a major rally.

   He's scheduled to make his first media appearance as a 2020 presidential 
contender Friday morning on ABC's "The View."

   With a record that stretches half a century, Biden's challenges are easy to 
find.

   Most recently, he struggled to respond to claims that he touched 2014 Nevada 
lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores' shoulders and kissed the back of her 
head before a fall campaign event. A handful of other women have made similar 
claims, though none has alleged sexual misconduct.

   Biden initially said he didn't recall the Flores incident but credited her 
with coming forward. He took a different approach in a subsequent statement, 
saying, "Never did I believe I acted inappropriately."

   Biden later pledged in an online video to be "much more mindful" of 
respecting personal space but joked two days later that he "had permission" to 
hug a male union leader before addressing the group's national conference.

   The episode offered a stark reminder of Biden's proclivity to gaffes and his 
long record in public office that has never felt the full glare of the 
spotlight that comes along with being a presidential front-runner.

   His first White House bid in 1988 ended after a plagiarism scandal. He 
dropped out of the 2008 race after earning less than 1 percent of the vote in 
the Iowa caucuses. Later that year, Obama named Biden as his running mate.

   More recently, Biden's willingness to work with Republicans has caused him 
political headaches.

   He was forced to walk back a comment last month that Vice President Mike 
Pence is "a decent guy" after intense blowback from liberal activists upset 
with Pence's opposition to gay rights.

   In recent weeks, Biden also has been repeatedly forced to explain his 1991 
decision, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, to allow Anita Hill to face 
difficult questions from an all-male panel about allegations of sexual 
harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, who later was 
confirmed to the high court.

   Biden has since apologized for his role in the hearing. But in the #MeToo 
era, particularly after the contentious confirmation of Supreme Court Justice 
Brett Kavanaugh, the episode remains a significant political liability.

   Likewise, Biden once played a key role in anti-crime legislation that had a 
disproportionately negative impact on African Americans. And while several 2020 
Democratic contenders have embraced the possibility of reparations to African 
Americans for slavery in recent weeks, Biden last month struggled to explain 
comments he made as a freshman senator in 1975 about the school busing debate.

   Biden's 2020 bid comes four years after he opted against challenging Hillary 
Clinton in the 2016 Democratic contest.

   In a book he wrote about conversations with his dying son, he opened up 
about the difficult choice to sit out the last presidential race: abandon a 
careerlong quest for the presidency or lose precious time with a family he'd 
held together through tragedy, from his first wife's and his daughter's deaths 
in a 1972 car accident to son Beau Biden's 2015 death from cancer.

   "He was worried that what I'd worked on my whole life, the things that 
mattered to me the most since I was a kid, that I'd walk away," Biden said of 
his son.

   Ultimately, the draw to take on Trump in 2020 was too strong. 


(CZ)

 
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