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