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Joe Biden uses Charlottesville as motivation for 2020 run: ‘We are in the battle for the soul of this nation

Joe Biden uses Charlottesville as motivation for 2020 run: ‘We are in the battle for the soul of this nation

Joe Biden is officially in the race for president.

His long-awaited answer to the biggest political question in the country and Delaware came in a video posted to social media Thursday. In announcing that he will vie for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, Biden framed his candidacy around opposition to President Donald Trump.

“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,” he said. 

In the more than 3-minute video, Biden, looking directly into the camera, said the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which white supremacists protested in the streets of the Virginia city, was a critical moment that fueled his desire to run for president. 

A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed during the rally when a protester deliberately drove into a crowd of counterdemonstrators. Following the incident, Trump controversially blamed “both sides” for the violence, which many believed emboldened the alt-right.

“In that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime,” said Biden, who also ran for president in 1988 and 2008. 

The announcement from the 76-year-old former vice president comes three years after he declined to seek the country’s highest political office — a time in which he and his family were grieving the death of his oldest son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.


Joe Biden announced Thursday morning that he’s launching his third presidential campaign. He joins 19 other Democrats vying for the presidency. 4/25/19
Delaware News Journal

Thanks to the name recognition that comes with holding national office, Biden has been polling ahead of other Democratic candidates, even as he waited along the sidelines for months.

Yet, in recent weeks, controversy struck after four women claimed Biden had hugged, kissed or rubbed noses with them without consent.  

In the wake of the allegations, Biden’s lead in some primary state polls fell. Meanwhile, support for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has surged. 

Others who have officially announced an intention to run for president, or operate an exploratory committee, include former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Elizabeth WarrenKirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris, among others.

Many of those candidates have been pulling the party to the left with calls for Medicare for all and tighter regulations on fossil fuels. It remains unclear whether Biden will veer similarly leftward during the months before the first state primaries.

Joe Biden’s complicated opposition to busing for school desegregation


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While serving as vice president, he embraced the “middle class Joe” moniker. Prior to 2009, he represented moderate, pro-business Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years. 

There, he championed the Violence Against Women Act and numerous bills that increased funding for police and penalties for drug use, including legislation that imposed stiffer prison sentences for the possession of crack than for powder cocaine.

Not your average Joe

With Biden officially in the race for president, many will judge his candidacy by how many political donations he can attract during its first few days. On his campaign website, launched Thursday morning, there is row of donation options, starting at $5.

Particularly excited about Biden will be socially liberal business leaders as well as his traditional base of union members, according to observers. 

In first remarks since ‘creepy Uncle Joe’ claims, Biden shifts conversation to worker rights

Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute said businesses will back Biden, a lifelong Democrat, even though he may not favor all of their preferred, “parochial” tax cuts.

“The runaway biggest fear they have is the political instability in Washington,” said Sonnenfeld, who also is a professor of management at Yale University, “Joe Biden, they see as a breath of fresh air.”

Biden offered few policy specifics on his website but outlined priorities, which included tackling climate change, reforming the criminal justice system, and “restoring the basic bargain for American workers.”

“It’s time to restore the dignity of work and give workers back the power to earn what they’re worth,” the website proclaimed.

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Jim Chanos, an investment manager and major Democratic donor told CNBC in February that he would throw his support and influence behind a Biden presidential run.

Comcast executive David Cohen reportedly will hold a fundraiser for Biden in Philadelphia on Thursday evening.

While Biden may reap support from well-heeled moderates, it could make him a target of political barbs from progressives.

Warren, in particular, provides an intriguing counterpoint to Biden’s candidacy. Both are populists of a sort. But Biden’s history of compromise with Republicans contrasts with Warren’s calls for stricter rules in the financial sector — including in the Delaware-based credit card industry.

Ultimately, Biden’s candidacy could become a measure of whether Democratic voters have shifted as far to the left as some of the presidential candidates.

The harshest attacks Biden may face as a candidate could come from the right.

Former Donald Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci goes after Joe Biden through his son

As a frontrunner, President Donald Trump is likely to make Biden a frequent target on Twitter, said David Andersen, assistant professor of political science at Iowa State University.

“Every Trump tweet is going to have some moniker for Joe Biden,” said Andersen, who studies presidential politics in the state with the country’s first caucuses.

The barbs began even before the official presidential announcement when Trump on March 18 called Biden “another low I.Q. individual.”

Two hours after his announcement, Trump in a tweet called Biden “Sleepy Joe” while also questioning his intelligence and stating that the Democratic race will be “nasty.”

During a speech in February at the University of Delaware, Biden acknowledged the presidential campaign will be “very, very, very difficult” —  one that could drag his family through the mud.

If they face off in the general election, Biden should match up well against Trump, said John Halpin, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. To get there, Biden’s focus needs to be on the shifting sentiments within the Democratic primary, he said.

“You don’t run for president against Trump in the Democratic primary courting the backing of Wall Street,” Halpin said.

A spokeswoman for President Barack Obama on Thursday said his choice of Biden as vice president in 2008 was “one of the best decisions he ever made.”  

Contact Karl Baker at kbaker@delawareonline.com or (302) 324-2329. Follow him on Twitter @kbaker6.

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