Joe Biden says he is the “most qualified person in the country to be president” and will make a decision on a 2020 bid within the next two months.
The former vice president discussed his plans at the University of Montana in Missoula, the latest stop on his book tour.
“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 said to applause. “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.”
Recent polling suggests Democratic voters may agree. A November Politico/Morning Consult poll showed Biden was the leading choice among Democrats, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas. And a Reuters poll reported similar findings, with Biden and Sanders in the top two slots followed by a statistical three-way tie between Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. More than two dozen prominent Democrats have been mentioned as possible candidates.
Conventional political wisdom, though, is that at this stage, voters’ preferences largely reflect name recognition. Biden and Sanders, who have already run national campaigns, are the best known of the group.
Harris said she would make a decision about whether to run for the Democratic nomination over the holidays. Sanders told New York magazine that “if it turns out that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump, then I will probably run.”
Biden said, “No one should run for the job unless they believe that they would be qualified doing the job. I’ve been doing this my whole adult life, and the issues that are the most consequential relating to the plight of the middle class and our foreign policy are things that I have — even my critics would acknowledge I may not be right, but I know a great deal about it.”
Biden, who decided not to challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination following the 2015 death of his son, said his family will make the decision as a “unit” about whether he should mount a bid.
“I have two young grandchildren my son left who love me and adore me and want me around,” he said. “I want to be there to take care of them, so we’ve got to figure out whether or not this is something we can all do as a family.”
Biden admitted he has some liabilities as a candidate.
“I am a gaffe machine, but my God, what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth,” he said. “I’m ready to litigate all those things. The question is: what kind of nation are we becoming? What are we going to do? Who are we?”
But there are more than just gaffes for Biden to navigate.
The 76-year-old Biden will be 78 when the next presidential swearing-in takes place. His role as chairman of the judiciary committee during the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings came under fresh scrutiny in September when Christine Blasey Ford testified against Brett Kavanaugh. Biden, who faced criticism for the way he handled the Hill hearings, said he regretted the way Hill was treated.
“I wish I could have done more to prevent those questions and the way they asked them,” he said on the eve of Blasey Ford’s testimony.
And in 1988, then-Sen. Biden ran for the Democratic nomination, and then withdrew amid charges he plagiarized some of his speeches and exaggerated his law school record.
On Monday, Biden insisted that he “never did plagiarize.”
President Trump has said he would relish the opportunity to face Biden in the 2020 general election.
“I dream about Biden,” Trump told CBS News early this year. “That’s a dream.”
For his part, Biden said Monday that he would back the Democratic nominee regardless of his personal decision.
“Whether or not I run, whoever runs, I’m going to break my neck to make sure they win,” he said. “We can’t have four more years.”
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