A longtime fixture in U.S. politics, Biden seeks to win elusive prize
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[October 31, 2020]
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Joe Biden, a fixture
in U.S. politics for a half century as a senator and vice president, is
seeking to complete a long climb to the political mountaintop that
includes two previous failed presidential bids by defeating President
Donald Trump on Tuesday.
If Biden beats the Republican president, a fellow septuagenarian, the
77-year-old Democrat from Delaware would become the oldest person ever
elected to the White House.
Biden has sought to portray his political experience as a benefit,
casting himself as a tested leader up to the tasks of healing a nation
battered by the coronavirus pandemic and providing steadiness after the
turbulence of Trump's presidency.
Accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in August, Biden
stressed compassion and decency, seeking to draw a contrast with the
"I'll be an ally of the light," Biden said, "not the darkness."
Trump has derided him as "Sleepy Joe" and said his mental capacity was
"shot" as the president's allies sought to portray Biden as senile.
If elected, Biden would be 78 years old upon inauguration on Jan. 20.
Trump, 74, was the oldest person to assume the presidency when he was
sworn in at age 70 in 2017.
Biden unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in
1988 and 2008 before finally securing his party's blessing this year
with strong support among Black voters.
He brings to his political career a mix of blue-collar credentials,
foreign policy experience and a compelling life story marked by family
tragedy - the loss of his first wife and a daughter in a car crash, and
a son to cancer.
Biden arrived in Washington as a young upstart. He was elected in 1972
at age 29 to the U.S. Senate from Delaware and remained there for 36
years before serving from 2009 to 2017 as vice president under Barack
Obama, the country's first Black president.
Trump has sought to turn Biden's experience into a liability, denouncing
him as a career politician. Trump has said Biden would become a puppet
of the Democratic Party's "radical left."
The coronavirus pandemic has been front and center in the presidential
race. Biden accuses Trump of surrendering in the face of the public
health crisis, saying the president panicked and tried to wish away the
virus rather than do the hard work needed to get it under control,
leaving the economy in shambles and millions of people jobless.
Trump, who was hospitalized for three days after contracting COVID-19,
has mocked Biden for regularly wearing a face mask to guard against the
'THE SOUL OF THIS NATION'
After serving as vice president, Biden opted not to run for president in
2016, only to watch Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. When Biden
announced his 2020 candidacy in April 2019, he took aim at Trump.
"We are in the battle for the soul of this nation," Biden said, adding
that if re-elected Trump would "forever and fundamentally alter the
character of this nation - who we are - and I cannot stand by and watch
Biden selected Senator Kamala Harris - whose father is an immigrant from
Jamaica and whose mother is an immigrant from India - as his running
mate, making her the first Black woman and first person of Asian descent
on a major-party U.S. ticket. At 56, Harris is a generation younger than
An effort by Trump to dig up dirt on Biden resulted in the president's
impeachment in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives
in December 2019. The two articles of impeachment - abuse of power and
obstruction of Congress - stemmed from Trump's request that Ukraine
investigate Biden and his son Hunter on unsubstantiated corruption
In February, the Senate, controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans,
acquitted him of the charges after refusing to call any witnesses.
U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI director this year concluded that
Russia, after interfering in the 2016 election to harm Trump's opponent
Clinton, was engaging in a campaign to denigrate Biden and boost Trump's
re-election chances while promoting discord in the United States.
Biden's previous two presidential runs did not go well. He dropped out
of the 1988 race after allegations that he had plagiarized some speech
lines from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. In 2008, Biden won
little support and withdrew, only to be selected later as Obama's
The folksy Biden, known for blunt talk and occasional verbal gaffes, has
often referenced his working-class roots to connect with ordinary
Americans. Biden also was the first Roman Catholic U.S. vice president.
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Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe
Biden during an appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., September
4, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Under Obama, Biden served as a troubleshooter on matters of war and
foreign affairs and on domestic issues such as gun control and
Obama did not always heed Biden's advice. Obama gave the go-ahead
for the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin
Laden despite Biden's warning that it was too risky.
Biden speaks openly about his family's tragedies including the 1972
car crash that killed his first wife, Neilia, and their 13-month-old
daughter, Naomi, weeks after his election to the Senate.
He almost abandoned his political career to care for his two young
sons who survived the accident but stayed on, commuting by train
from Delaware to Washington to avoid uprooting them.
In 2015, his son Joseph "Beau" Biden III, an Iraq war veteran who
had served as Delaware's attorney general, died from brain cancer at
age 46. Biden's son Hunter struggled with drug issues as an adult.
Biden himself had a health scare in 1988 when he suffered two brain
Biden was born in the blue-collar city of Scranton, Pennsylvania,
the eldest of four siblings. His family later moved to Delaware.
Biden overcame stuttering as a boy by reciting passages of poetry to
He was practically a political novice - having served two years on a
county board in Delaware - when in 1972 he became the fifth-youngest
elected senator in U.S. history.
Despite years of partisan hostilities in Washington, Biden remained
a believer in bipartisanship. During his time in the Senate, Biden
was known for his close working relationships with some of his
Republican colleagues. In addition, a number of disaffected
Republicans, including former government officials and former
lawmakers, alarmed at Trump's presidency have endorsed Biden.
Biden also advocated for America's role as a leader on the world
stage at a time when Trump was abandoning international agreements
and alienating longtime foreign allies.
One of Biden's accomplishments as a senator was helping to secure
passage in 1994 of a law called the Violence Against Women Act to
protect victims of domestic crimes.
While in the Senate, Biden built up a specialty in foreign affairs
and at one time headed the Foreign Relations Committee. He voted in
favor of authorizing the 2003 Iraq invasion before becoming a critic
of Republican President George W. Bush's handling of the war.
Biden was criticized as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
in 1991 for his handling of sexual harassment accusations against
Republican President George H.W. Bush's conservative Supreme Court
nominee Clarence Thomas by former aide Anita Hill. Liberals
criticized him for doing too little to defend Hill's allegations,
which Thomas had denied.
The committee held explosive televised hearings prior to Thomas's
eventual Senate confirmation. Thomas accused Biden's committee of
conducting "a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks who in any way
deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have
In May of this year, Biden denied a former Senate aide's accusation
that he had sexually assaulted her in 1993, calling the claim "not
true" and saying "unequivocally it never, never happened." The
allegation was made by a California woman named Tara Reade who
worked as a staff assistant in Biden's Senate office for about 10
Reade was one of eight women who in 2019 came forward to say Biden
had hugged, kissed or touched them in ways that made them
uncomfortable, though none accused him of sexual assault. Reade
publicly accused him of the assault months later.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Howard Goller)
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