Posted on: The Telegraph | April 25th, 2019
Former vice president of the United States Joe Biden formally joined the crowded Democratic presidential contest on Thursday.
“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Mr Biden said in a stark video released online, referencing the Charlottesville riots which saw white supremacists take to the streets in 2017, and calling on voters to deny Republican U.S. President Donald Trump a second term in office.
The field of Democratic candidates now features at least 20 hopefulsjockeying for the chance to take on Mr Trump next year. Several lesser-known candidates may still join the race.
Biden, a 76-year-old lifelong politician, becomes an instant front-runner alongside Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, with the two leading the polls. Among Democrats, Biden has unmatched international and legislative experience, and is among the best-known faces in US politics.
But his team worry about his fundraising ability and 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 also 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 Barack Obama years.
Mr Biden has said he would campaign as an “Obama-Biden Democrat,” who is as pragmatic as he is progressive. He is aiming to be a conduit between working-class white voters and the younger, more diverse voters who backed Obama in historic numbers.
The Republican Party wasted no time seeking to undercut Biden’s record, releasing a video on Wednesday questioning economic growth under Obama and Biden while resurrecting conservative arguments against Obama’s health care law.
Yet 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 is set to headline a fundraiser in Philadelphia on Thursday evening at the home of David L. Cohen, executive senior vice president of Comcast, aiming to raise $500,000 at the event, according to people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss his schedule and fundraising goals.
With a record that stretches half a century, Biden’s challenges are easy to find.
He has been beset in recent months by accusations of inappropriate touching, including 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 that his long record in public office 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 Mr 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.