Former United States Vice President Joe Biden joined a crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field on Thursday, officially announcing his candidacy in a video posted on his social media accounts.
In a video posted on Twitter, Biden focused on the 2017 deadly clash between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Biden noted US President Donald Trump‘s comments that there were some “very fine people” on both sides of the violent encounter, which left one woman dead.
“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said. “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 announcement follows months of speculation over whether Biden, a Democratic party stalwart and an early leader in opinion polls, would launch a bid for his party’s nomination to challenge Trump in 2020.
Biden served eight years as vice president under President Barack Obamaand 36 years in the US Senate. At 76, he is the second oldest candidate in the Democratic nominating contests, after 77-year-old Senator Bernie Sanders.
Obama hasn’t explicitly endorsed Biden’s bid, but the former president took the unusual step of weighing in on Thursday’s announcement.
“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 will likely be a key figure in the Democratic debate over whether a liberal political newcomer or a centrist veteran is needed to win back the White House.
“The core values of this nation … our standing in the world … our very democracy … everything that has made America – America – is at stake,” the announcement said.
Biden, who relishes his “Middle-Class Joe” nickname and touts his working-class roots, made unsuccessful bids for the nomination in 1988 and 2008.
The core values of this nation… our standing in the world… our very democracy…everything that has made America — America –is at stake. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. #Joe2020 https://t.co/jzaQbyTEz3
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 25, 2019
With a record in elected office that stretches half a century, Biden faces multiple challenges.
Last month he struggled to respond to comments from Lucy Flores, a 2014 lieutenant governor nominee in Nevada, who said he made her uncomfortable by touching her shoulders and kissing the back of her head before a campaign event. Several other women have made similar claims.
In a video, Biden pledged to be “more mindful” of respecting “personal space”, but Flores told Fox News this week that the former senator’s jokes on the matter have been “so incredibly disrespectful”.
The incident is just a glimpse of the harsh vetting from both Democrats and Republicans expected for Biden, who has run for president twice before but never from such a strong political starting point.
His first White House bid in 1988 ended after a plagiarism scandal. And in recent weeks, he was repeatedly forced to explain his 1991 decision, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, to allow Anita Hill to face questions about her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the Supreme Court. Biden has since apologised for his role in the hearing.
Some liberal activists have also criticised Biden’s senate record, including his authorship of the 1994 crime act that led to increased incarceration rates, and his ties to the financial industry, which is prominent in his home state of Delaware.
On paper, however, Biden may be well positioned to take on Trump in a general election.
The Republican president’s allies have privately warned that Biden might be the biggest threat to Trump’s reelection given Biden’s potential appeal among the white working class in the Midwest, the same region that helped Trump win the presidency.
Biden joins a field of 19 other candidates who have officially announced their candidacy.
This includes: Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kristen Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Wyne Messam, Seth Moulton, Reto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang.
Trump welcomed Biden to the campaign in a tweet calling him “Sleepy Joe”.