Former Vice President Biden launches
White House bid as Democrat frontrunner
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[April 25, 2019]
By John Whitesides and James Oliphant
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Vice
President Joe Biden, a moderate who has made his appeal to working-class
voters that deserted the Democrats in 2016 a key part of his political
identity, launched a bid for the White House on Thursday as the party's
Biden announced the third presidential bid of his career by video on
YouTube and other social media. He is expected to make his first public
appearance as a candidate on Monday at an event in Pittsburgh featuring
union members, a key constituency.
Biden, 76, had been wrestling for months over whether to run. His
candidacy will face numerous questions, including whether he is too old
and too centrist for a Democratic Party yearning for fresh faces and
increasingly propelled by its more vocal liberal wing.
Still, he starts as the leader of the pack in opinion polls of a
Democratic field that now will total 20 contenders seeking the chance to
challenge President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, in
Critics say his standing in polls is largely a function of name
recognition for the former U.S. senator from Delaware, whose more than
four decades in public service includes eight years as President Barack
Obama's No. 2 in the White House.
As speculation about his bid mounted, Biden faced new questions about
his longtime propensity for touching and kissing strangers at political
events, with several women coming forward to say he had made them feel
Biden struggled in his response to the concerns, at times joking about
his behavior. But ultimately, he apologized and said he recognized
standards for personal conduct had evolved in the wake of the #MeToo
Trump and his allies seized on the flap, attempting to weaken perhaps
his top rival before Biden entered the race.
Even so, Biden was determined to push forward, arguing his background,
experience and resume best positioned him to take on Trump next year.
In a speech to union members in April, Biden called Trump a "tragedy in
"This country canít afford more years of a president looking to settle
personal scores," he said.
Biden's candidacy will offer early hints about whether Democrats are
more interested in finding a centrist who can win over the white
working-class voters who went for Trump in 2016, or someone who can fire
up the party's diverse progressive wing, such as Senators Kamala Harris
of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Elizabeth Warren of
[to top of second column]
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announces his candidacy for the
Democratic presidential nomination in this still image taken from a
video released April 25, 2019. BIDEN CAMPAIGN HANDOUT via REUTERS
Biden's long history in the Senate, where he was a leading voice on
foreign policy, will give liberal activists plenty to criticize. As
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, he angered women's rights
activists with his handling of sexual harassment allegations against
Clarence Thomas during the justice's 1991 Supreme Court confirmation
He also has been criticized for his ties to the financial industry,
which is prominent in his home state of Delaware, and for his
authorship of a 1994 crime act that led to increased incarceration
Biden has been one of the party's more aggressive Trump critics.
Last year, he said he would "beat the hell" out of Trump if the two
were in high school because of the way the president has talked
about women. That prompted Trump to call him "Crazy Joe Biden" and
claim on Twitter that Biden would "go down fast and hard, crying all
the way" if they fought.
Biden later lamented the exchange, saying "I shouldn't get down in
the mosh pit with this guy."
Known for his verbal gaffes on the campaign trail, Biden failed to
gain traction with voters during his previous runs in 1988 and 2008.
He dropped his 1988 bid amid allegations he plagiarized some of his
stump oratory and early academic work. But his experience and strong
debate performances in 2008 impressed Obama enough that he tapped
Biden as his running mate.
Biden decided against a 2016 presidential bid after a lengthy public
period of indecision as he wrestled with doubts about whether he and
his family were ready for a grueling campaign while mourning his son
Beau, who died of brain cancer in May 2015. His son had urged him to
Biden faced some of the same family considerations this time around,
as he is still coping with Beau's death while his other son, Hunter,
has gone through a divorce amid a reported relationship with Beau's
(Reporting by John Whitesides and James Oliphant; Editing by Colleen
Jenkins, Jonathan Oatis and Peter Graff)
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