It’s a go for Joe: Delawareans react to Biden’s presidential run

Joe Biden gives his keynote speech during the First State Democratic Dinner at the Rollins Center in Dover on March 16. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Unsurprisingly, Delaware’s top Democratic officials applauded Joe Biden’s decision to seek the presidency.

The former vice president, who also spent 36 years as one of Delaware’s two senators, ended months of speculation Thursday by announcing he will campaign for the Democratic nomination for the White House.

Echoing comments he made at the Delaware Democratic Party dinner last month, Mr. Biden said he is running to defeat President Donald Trump and undo the harm done to the United States over the past two-plus years.

“I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time,” he said in his announcement video.

“But 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. The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America America is at stake.”

With his decades of experience, high name recognition and seemingly broad appeal, Mr. Biden appears to be one of the favorites to win the nomination.

Mr. Biden specifically cited a 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, as one of the factors motivating him to run. He referenced that incident at the party dinner in March, saying President Trump “stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation” by stating there were “very fine people on both sides.”

But politics is rarely so simple, and Mr. Biden will have to contend with a very crowded — and diverse — field that includes plenty of others with elective experience, many of whom are women or minorities or much younger.

Vice President Joe Biden with his son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, at Return Day Nov. 8, 2012. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Whether the man who served as vice president from 2009 to 2017 can successfully capture the support from across the wide Democratic base he needs to earn the party’s nomination remains to be seen. At least for now, though, he appears to be in a good position: An Ipsos/Reuters poll released Wednesday had Mr. Biden in the lead, with 30 percent of Democratic responders picking him as their top choice for the nomination — twice that of the second-most popular choice, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Chris Coons, a Democrat who was elected to Mr. Biden’s old seat in the Senate in 2010, touted his experience and ability to bring people together.

As a senator, Mr. Biden played key roles in getting the Violence Against Women Act and the federal “assault weapons” ban passed in the 1990s, he said.

“He played a leading role in making the Obama-Biden Administration a progressive and effective government that did more to lift up American families, broaden access to health care, deal with climate change, rein in Wall Street, and respect the LGBTQ community than any before it,” Sen. Coons said in a statement.

“Joe is also better prepared than anyone to lead America on the world stage at a time when our commitments to our allies and our values are being questioned like never before. Joe knows what it means to strengthen our alliances, stare down our adversaries, and represent the best of America abroad.

“Most important is Joe Biden’s steadfast belief in and optimism about the American people. Joe believes in and embodies the fundamental decency and sense of hope that make this country the greatest the world has ever known. He understands, like so many of us, what it means to be knocked down and get back up, and he believes in his heart that America’s best days are still ahead.”

This is Mr. Biden’s third bid for the White House, with previous attempts in 1988 and 2008 falling well short.

Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, who served alongside Mr. Biden in Congress for 18 years, first as a representative and then as a senator, praised the man he said was the first to urge him to run for Congress.

“Throughout his time in public service, Joe has proven that you can disagree without being disagreeable, and that you can compromise on policy without compromising your principles. He is a man of his word and of integrity, and it is that character that has earned him the respect of voters and world leaders alike,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Biden, Sen. Carper said, “is a tested, experienced leader with a proven track record of getting things done for our country” who is “uniquely positioned to help restore America’s standing in the world” and has an “authenticity that continues to be well-received in red and blue states alike.”

Vice President Joe Biden during Return Day Nov. 7, 2008. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

One of the biggest marks against Mr. Biden is his age: He’ll turn 78 just a few weeks after the 2020 election, meaning he will be the same age on election day as the oldest president to hold office, Ronald Reagan, was when he left the White House after his two terms.
Another issue that might hound him is his manner of dealing with people — specifically, what one might call his touchy-feeliness. Mr. Biden’s tendency to hug or otherwise stand very close to others, which some have referred to as an invasion of personal space, has drawn criticism, with Lucy Flores, a former Nevada politician, writing last month he smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head without her consent.

Mr. Biden tweeted several weeks ago he “will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future.”

Former Gov. and U.S. Rep. Mike Castle, a Republican, believes the issue will not sink Mr. Biden’s candidacy. To him, the former vice president is clearly one of the most impressive of the dozen-plus serious contenders.

“My sense is he has a very good chance of being the candidate. He has a reasonable chance of being able to win a presidential election,” said Mr. Castle, who served in the House from 1993 to 2011, during which time Mr. Biden was either in the Senate or the vice presidency.

The former vice president will have to contend both with those who argue the Democratic Party needs to move to the left and those who say the Democratic nominee must focus on appealing to independents and more conservative voters, as well as questions about his age and record.

In particular, Mr. Biden will have to satisfy the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, which has in recent weeks criticized him for his former tough-on-crime stance and support for special interests.

“Will he get pushed and pulled by his own party and by his supporting levels, such as unions, for example? So that will be a little harder for him that it might have been being a senator or even a vice president, but that just remains to be seen,” Mr. Castle said.

The first primary for the 2020 election doesn’t take place until February, meaning Mr. Biden will have to endure plenty of attacks before Americans start going to the polls. How his record holds up can only be known with time.

Commenters on the Delaware State News’ Facebook page were largely apathetic if not outight dismissive of Mr. Biden’s announcement, saying his time has passed and Americans should re-elect President Trump.

But the First State figures to line up behind Mr. Biden, as have several Democratic politicians from other states, such as Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Doug Jones of Alabama and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Delaware’s lone member of the House, said in a statement Americans will have a choice to make in 2020.

“Will they choose to continue down a path that undermines progress, worker protections, and civil rights; will they choose a strong economy for some or opportunity for all, and will they choose to meet this historic moment with proven leadership that can heal our divisions and inspire us to reach for higher heights?” she asked.

By voting for Mr. Biden, she said, Americans can affirm their belief in and desire for “hope and compassion over fear.”

Gov. John Carney, who met his future wife, Tracey, while the two worked for Mr. Biden’s Senate office in the 1980s, expressed optimism about his former boss’ chances of becoming the first Delawarean to serve as the United States’ commander-in-chief.

“Throughout his career in the U.S. Senate and as Vice President, Joe Biden has proven time and again that he is a committed and compassionate public servant, and a true advocate for working families across our country,” he said in a statement.

“In Delaware, we know Joe as a neighbor and a friend. He has comforted thousands of Delawareans during times of tragedy, and has remained a champion for the people of Delaware through good times and bad.

“I look forward to supporting Joe as he seeks the presidency. I am confident he would be a tremendous president and would be a leader that the American people deserve. He’s just the kind of leader we need right now who can bring the country together.”

The life of Joe Biden

Nov. 20, 1942 — Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is born in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

1953 — The Biden family moves to northern Delaware.

1965 — Joe Biden graduates from the University of Delaware and enters Syracuse University College of Law.

Aug. 27, 1966 — Joe Biden marries Neilia Hunter, whom he met on spring break in the Bahamas.

1968 — Joe Biden graduates law school and begins working as an attorney in Delaware.

Feb. 3, 1969 — Joe Biden’s first child, Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III, is born.

Feb. 4, 1970 — Joe Biden’s second child, Robert Hunter Biden, is born.

Nov. 3, 1970 — Joe Biden wins election to New Castle County Council.

Nov. 8, 1971 — Joe Biden’s third child, Naomi Christina Biden, is born.

Nov. 7, 1972 — With 50.4 percent of the vote, Joe Biden upsets Cale Boggs to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Dec. 18, 1972 — Joe Biden’s wife and daughter are killed in a car crash in Delaware that also injured his two sons.

Jan. 5, 1973 — After considering resigning, Joe Biden is sworn in to the Senate at the bedside of his sons in Wilmington.

June 17, 1977 — Joe Biden marries Jill Jacobs on the urging of his sons.

Nov. 7, 1978 — Joe Biden wins re-election to the Senate, this time with more breathing room.

June 8, 1981 — Joe and Jill Biden welcome a daughter, Ashley Blazer Biden.

Nov. 6, 1984 — Joe Biden wins a third term as Delaware’s junior senator.

June 9, 1987 — Joe Biden declares his candidacy for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.

Sept. 23, 1987 — Amidst accusations of plagiarism both in campaign speeches and in law school, Joe Biden ends his run for the White House.

February 1988 — Joe Biden undergoes surgery for a brain aneurysm that nearly killed him.

Nov. 6, 1990 — Joe Biden wins a fourth term as Delaware’s junior senator.

Nov. 5, 1996 — Joe Biden wins yet another election to the Senate.

Jan. 3, 2001 — With Tom Carper’s victory over Bill Roth, Joe Biden becomes Delaware’s senior senator.

Nov. 5, 2002 — Joe Biden is re-elected to the Senate.

Jan. 31, 2007 — Joe Biden announces his second run for the presidency.

Jan. 3, 2008 — Joe Biden ends his campaign after earning less than 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa Democratic caucus.

Aug. 23, 2008 — Barack Obama names Joe Biden his running mate.

Aug. 27, 2008 — Joe Biden officially accepts the nomination for vice president at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Nov. 4, 2008 — Barack Obama and Joe Biden are elected president and vice president, with the latter also winning re-election to his Senate seat.

Jan. 15, 2009 — After 36 years of continuous service, Joe Biden resigns from the Senate.

Jan. 20, 2009 — Joe Biden is sworn in as vice president.

Nov. 6, 2012 — Barack Obama and Joe Biden are re-elected.

May 30, 2015 — Beau Biden, the former attorney general of Delaware, dies of brain cancer at age 46.

Oct. 21, 2015 — Joe Biden announces he will not run for president in 2016.

Jan. 20, 2017 — Joe Biden leaves public office as Donald Trump and Mike Pence are sworn in as president and vice president, respectively.

April 25, 2019 — Joe Biden announces he will make a third attempt to seek the presidency.

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

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