Joe Biden comes close to announcing presidential candidacy, denounces Trump

Meredith Newman

Former Vice President Joe Biden came close to announcing his presidential candidacy on Saturday night when he told Delaware Democrats he has the "most progressive record of anybody running."

The politician then quickly backtracked, saying he meant to say "anybody who would run," when he spoke at the First State Democratic Dinner at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Dover as the event's keynote speaker.

Although he didn't officially announce his 2020 candidacy, his speech sounded like one he could make on the campaign trail, as he denounced President Donald Trump, criticized Republican policy and emphasized the importance of restoring America and its middle class. 

“We’re living in the battle for the soul of America," Biden said. "We have an overwhelming need to restore the backbone of America.”

The speech came at a time when speculation over whether the 76-year-old politician will run for president has intensified. This past week, U.S. Sen Chris Coons said he is "confident" Biden will run for president, even alluding to possible Biden campaign themes. The former vice president hinted at his plans at the International Firefighters Association in Washington.

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And just a month ago, when Biden last spoke publicly in Delaware, he told a crowd at the University of Delaware that his family supports him running for president. 

Throughout his speech on Saturday night, people in the crowd yelled, at times almost pleaded, "Run, Joe, run!" 

Former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the First State Democratic Dinner in Dover, Delaware, on March 16, 2019.

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Biden was emotional when he took the podium in Dover, wiping his eyes as he thanked the crowd of hundreds for keeping the memory of his son and former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden alive. His elder son died of brain cancer in 2015.

Biden spoke of how the state's political culture, often referred to as the "Delaware way," should act as a model for the country. Politics is personal in Delaware, Biden said, "because we know one another."

He referenced Return Day, a quirky Delaware tradition in which, following election day, candidates literally bury the hatchet and ride together in a carriage in order to eliminate any animosity. 

It didn't take long for Biden to condemn Trump, saying "the world’s worst dictators are using his words to justify their power." Biden denounced Trump for his remarks following the Charlottesville, Virginia, riots in which he said there were "many fine people" on each side of the march.

"At that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime,” he said.

The president also hasn't helped the people he promised to, specifically the middle class, Biden said. He criticized the Republicans tax cut legislation and the Trump administration's proposed budget, which included cuts to Medicare, education and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

“These cuts are driven by the same thing,” Biden said. “They rather reward the super-wealthy and hope something trickles down than help anyone else.”

Despite him seeing the country begin to tear apart, Biden said he is the most optimistic he's ever been in his political career. When he helped campaign for candidates during the 2018 midterm elections, Biden said, he felt there was an "insatiable desire" to have people of character in public office.

"It's not about me and whether I run or not," Biden said. "I mean that sincerely. It's about the capacity to restore America." 

Biden said the country needs to "stop walking around with our heads down like, 'Woe is me.'" The 21st century, Biden said, can still be "America's century."

"It’s time to get up and get off our backs and remember the hell who we are." 

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Joe Biden comes close to announcing presidential candidacy, denounces Trump