How Joe Biden fared in two previous White House bids

Former US vice president Joe Biden is running for president in 2020, after mounting two unsuccessful campaigns for America's highest office (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB)

Washington (AFP) - Joe Biden, the former vice president and Democratic heavyweight who launched his 2020 White House campaign Thursday, has sought the office twice before, in 1988 and 2008.

He considered mounting another run four years ago, but his son Beau succumbed to brain cancer in May 2015, and the grief-stricken vice president ultimately decided against seeking the nomination in 2016.

Here is a look at Biden's previous two presidential bids.

- 1988 -

Biden was 44 years old and a 15-year veteran of the US Senate in June 1987 when he first threw his hat in the nomination ring.

While on the campaign trail he sought to promote his family's humble origins, and began borrowing the eloquent phrasings and syntax of British politician Neil Kinnock.

At first Biden credited Kinnock, but by the time he used the lines in his closing remarks at an August debate at the Iowa State Fair, the crediting was absent.

It was subsequently learned that Biden lifted passages from the late Robert Kennedy without attribution, and plagiarized five pages of a law-review paper, and pressure swiftly built on the candidate.

He dropped out of the race that September, saying that as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee he would concentrate his efforts on chairing the confirmation hearings for US Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.

- 2008 -

Twenty years later, Biden was ready for another political rodeo.

He ran on his extensive national security experience, gained in part from his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his support for a political solution in Iraq.

Biden also caused a firestorm early in the race when he characterized then-senator Barack Obama, one of his campaign opponents, as "the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean."

The remark was considered by many to be racist, and Biden expressed regret for the comments.

Biden soldiered on, campaigning in early voting states and debating rivals. But his campaign stalled, and in early 2008 he finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses. He dropped out soon after.

His campaign, however, raised his profile in the eyes of rival Obama, who became the nominee and picked Biden as his running mate, in part to beef up his foreign policy credibility. The pair won the general election in November 2008.