Biden still hinting at run for president

DOVER — He’s not officially in the race, but it’s only a matter of time.

Joe Biden did more than just tease a run for president Saturday evening — he just about outright said it.

The only thing missing was one simple phrase: “I’m running for president.”

The 47th vice president of the United States captivated the 800 people in attendance at the Delaware Democratic Party’s marquee dinner, giving what was a campaign speech in everything but name.

Mr. Biden, the keynote speaker, even had a telling slip of the tongue at one point, describing himself as possessing “the most progressive record of anybody running.”

He quickly added that that grouping includes anyone thinking about seeking the presidency, although he was drowned out by a crowd delighted at the initial comment.

Anticipation for the address by Delaware’s favorite son was high, as evidenced by the packed ballroom and the dozens of media people crowded in the back. While members of the audience left without getting an official declaration the Biden campaign is underway, very few were disappointed with what they heard.

Throughout his 40-minute speech, Mr. Biden bashed President Trump and touted his own record, offering a glimpse at what the United States under a President Biden might look like — and above all, urging Democrats to act.

“The election in 2020, without hyperbole, is going to be the most important election this country has undergone in a hundred years,” he said. “There’s so much at stake. Our core values are being shredded. Our standing on the world stage is abysmal.”

American democracy itself is being dismantled by President Trump through his constant attacks on political opponents and the media, his myriad falsehoods and his cozying-up to autocrats around the globe, Mr. Biden told the Democratic audience.

“The only thing strong enough to tear America apart is America itself, and we’ve seen it start,” he said.

Mr. Biden would likely be one of the main contenders for the Democratic nomination, with a recent CNN/Des Moines Register poll giving him a lead over a very crowded and diverse field of more than a dozen candidates. Released last week, the poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa found 27 percent of respondents listed Mr. Biden as their top pick for president.

Boasting strong name recognition and a long record, the 76-year-old is seen by many as the perfect candidate in an age of division.

“I think Joe Biden by personality, his experience and his vision is just the right candidate for the Democratic Party for this time. … At the end of the day, what I hear from Democratic primary voters is they want to win,” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons told reporters before the event began.

“They want someone who will repair the damage that President Trump has done to our standing in the world. They want someone who will fix the ways in which the presidency itself has been brought low by President Trump, and they’re going to look hard at Joe Biden and realize this is just the right person for this time in our history.”

Sen. Coons said Mr. Biden is “all but certain” to run, and he expects an announcement within two weeks.

A successful Democratic candidate needs to tackle climate change, income inequality, racism and much more — all problems that have only grown worse under the Trump administration, Mr. Biden told the audience.

He practically yelled into the microphone at several points, growing particularly animated when he decried the 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“We saw Klansmen, white supremacists, neo-Nazis slink out from their darkened rooms … their crazed, I mean crazed, faces illuminated by torchlight, veins bulging, the very faces of racism, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile, the same anti-Semitic bile, that was heard across Europe in the ‘30s, word for word,” he thundered, outrage in his voice.

In the aftermath of that incident, Mr. Biden told the crowd, President Trump “stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation” by saying there were “very fine people on both sides.”

As the crowd booed in response, the former vice president urged them not to boo but to reflect on the incident.

“With these words, the president of the United States decided a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it, and at that moment, I knew that the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime,” Mr. Biden said.

The Democrat, who served as one of Delaware’s two U.S. senators from 1973 to 2009, has made two previous bids for president, falling well short in 1988 and 2008. . 2020 would be his last chance — and his best.

But despite the admiration and respect he receives from many quarters, some Democrats believe he is too moderate, a relic of a bygone age. To them, Mr. Biden’s very public embrace of compromise and bipartisan, themes he echoed Saturday, are blemishes.

The former vice president pushed back on those criticisms, rejecting arguments he is too close to Republicans and lacks the liberal credentials the Democratic base desires.

“For this democracy to work … you have to arrive at consensus. Period. Without consensus, nothing can get done,” he said.

Democratic voters are energized, and so is Mr. Biden. As Gov. John Carney put it, the former VP is “ready for a fight.”

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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