PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — It’s official — Joe Biden is running for president. The former vice president and senator from Delaware made the announcement Thursday in a video and will be in Philadelphia tonight for a fundraiser.
“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said. “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. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. #Joe2020 https://t.co/jzaQbyTEz3
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 25, 2019
Biden’s first White House bid in 1988 ended after a plagiarism scandal. And in recent weeks, he was repeatedly forced to explain his 1991 decision, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, to allow Anita Hill to face questions about her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the Supreme Court.
A Biden aide told The Associated Press that the former vice president spoke to Hill “where he shared with her directly his regret for what she endured.”
“They had a private discussion where he shared with her directly his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country,” said deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield.
In an interview with The New York Times, Hill said the conversation left her feeling “deeply unsatisfied.” She’s unconvinced that he accepts the harm he caused her when he presided over the congressional hearing.
“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you. I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”
Hill says she cannot support Biden until he takes responsibility for his actions. She also said she is “troubled” by allegations that he touched women in overaffectionate ways that made them uncomfortable.
Biden has said he wishes he could have avoided what called questioning that was “hostile and insulting.” But in the “Me Too” era, it’s another example of why critics believe he may struggle to catch on with the Democratic primary voters of 2020.
Biden served as Barack Obama’s two-term vice president after nearly four decades as a Delaware senator. His high-profile, working-class background and connection to the Obama years would help him enter the race as a front-runner, although he faces questions about his age and whether his more moderate record fits with a party that has become more liberal.
His critics in both major political parties were also quick to pounce.
“The old guard of the Democratic Party failed to stop Trump, and they can’t be counted on to lead the fight against his divide-and-conquer politics today,” the liberal group Justice Democrats tweeted. “The party needs new leadership with a bold vision capable of energizing voters in the Democratic base who stayed home in 2016.”
Biden, a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, is betting that his working class appeal and ties to Barack Obama’s presidency will help him win over such skeptics. Obama hasn’t explicitly endorsed Biden’s bid, but the former president took the unusual step of weighing in on Thursday’s announcement.
“President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made,” Obama spokeswoman Katie Hill said. “He relied on the vice president’s knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today.”
Biden told reporters at an Amtrak station in Wilmington that he asked Obama not to endorse him.
“I asked President Obama not to endorse and he doesn’t want to — whoever wins this nomination should win this on their own merits,” said Biden.
Trump welcomed Biden to the campaign in a tweet calling him “Sleepy Joe.”
“I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign,” Trump said. “It will be nasty – you will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick & demented ideas. But if you make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate.”
Biden also stopped at Gianni’s Pizza in Wilmington where he celebrated the kickoff to his campaign by snapping pictures and shaking hands with fellow Delaware residents.
“America is coming back like we used to be – ethical, straight, telling the truth, moving it away, supporting your allies, those good things,” Biden said outside the pizza shop.
Biden made an impression on 8-year-old Juliana Esposito who got a hefty tip from Biden for serving him lunch at her parent’s pizza shop.
Biden also caught up with a couple of old friends while getting pizza.
“We met back in ’57 or ’58,” said Jack Jackson. “I was a lifeguard at one of the public pools. The pools had been desegregated and Joe happened to be one of the few white lifeguards who stayed at the pool after it changed over.”
Biden will be in Philadelphia on Thursday evening headlining a fundraiser at the home of David L. Cohen, executive senior vice president of Comcast. Biden is aiming to raise $500,000 at the event.
He will hold his first public event as a 2020 presidential candidate in Pittsburgh on Monday. Then it’s off to Iowa, home of the leadoff nominating caucuses on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by two days in South Carolina. He’ll visit the other two early-voting states, Nevada and New Hampshire, in early May, before holding a major rally in Philadelphia.
The former vice president is the last major contender who is expected to enter the crowded Democratic primary, which now features more than 20 candidates. The 76-year-old would be the most experienced politician in the race, and the second-oldest, after 77-year-old Bernie Sanders. Already, supportive donors have been trying to raise money on his behalf.
During a stop on his book tour last December, Biden said he was the most qualified person to be president.
“I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” Biden, the former Delaware senator, said. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I’ve worked on my whole life.”
Biden has been mired in controversy recently after being accused of inappropriate touching by several women. Seven women have come forward saying his touching made them feel uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry I didn’t understand more. I’m not sorry for any of my intentions. I’m not sorry for anything that I’ve ever done,” he said in a video posted to Twitter, adding that he’s “never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman.”
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says Biden is the best candidate to defeat Trump.
“I also think, objectively, that he was the best vice president in my lifetime. I think he reflects the views of the vast Democratic electorate and I think he would be a strong candidate to both win the nomination and the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump,” said Rendell.
Voters have been mixed about Biden running for president.
“I think he should run, 100 percent,” said one person. “I think he has a great chance.”
Another said, “I just think Joe a little too old now for me. He’s a good man, I like him, but let’s give somebody else a shot at that.”
CBS3’s Cleve Bryan contributed to this report.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)