Joe Biden launches 2020 presidential bid with attack on Trump over Charlottesville riots

Ben Riley-Smith
Former Vice President Joe Biden announces his 2020 candidacy - REUTERS

 

Joe Biden said Donald Trump posed a historic threat to the values of America on Thursday as he formally announced his 2020 White House bid, framing himself as the person best placed to defeat the US president. 

Mr Biden, who served as Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years, confirmed his long-expected bid in a video that declared a “battle for the soul of this nation” was underway. 

“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,” Mr Biden said. 

The 76-year-old has consistently led opinion polls asking who Democratic Party voters want as their presidential 2020 candidate ever since Mr Trump took office. 

 

 

However his challenge will be to appeal to the party's energised Left-wing that wants a progressive policy platform and those favouring a candidate who embodies change. 

Mr Trump was quick to respond on Twitter, writing: “Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe. I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign. 

“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!”

It will be the third presidential campaign for Mr Biden, who secured just a fraction of Democrat primary votes in the 1988 and 2008 campaigns and dropped out early. 

Announcing his campaign in a three-and-a-half minute video, Mr Biden focused on Mr Trump’s response to a 2017 clash between white supremacists and anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville that left one woman dead. 

 

The video launching Mr Biden's campaign makes heavy reference to the 2017 Charlottesville riots, in which white supremacists took to the streets, clashing with counter-protestors Credit: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

 

"He said there were 'some very fine people on both sides',” Mr Biden said of Mr Trump's reaction to the violence. 

“Very fine people on both sides? With those words, the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.” 

Mr Biden added: “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.” 

In an email to supporters, Mr Biden called Mr Trump "a president who, like most charlatans and demagogues throughout history, seeks only to aggrandise himself, to consolidate his own power - by blaming the 'other'."

Mr Biden enters a packed field, with 20 Democrats seeking the nomination and possibly more still to enter the race. Primary voting starts in February 2020. 

The Biden campaign is framing their candidate as best placed to defeat Mr Trump, noting his political experience – he served as a senator for Delaware for more than three decades - and history alongside Mr Obama. 

 

Mr Biden is pitching himself as an "Obama-Biden Democrat", as pragmatic as he is progressive Credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg

 

Mr Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania – a swing state which Mr Trump won in 2016 – and has touted his ability to win over working class voters who abandoned the Democrats. His first campaign event will be in the state on Monday. 

However he must overcome a string of political challenges if he is to win the nomination.  A surge of progressive energy from left-wing Democrats, driven by democratic socialist senator Bernie Sanders, is at odds with Mr Biden’s historic willingness to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. 

His moderate politics – including pushing through a hardline crime bill in the 1990s that has blamed for ushering in an era of mass incarceration – will likely face scrutiny.

So too will accusations that he touched women inappropriately at political events, such as rubbing shoulders or kissing people on the head, that have surfaced in recent weeks. He has promised to learn from the incidents. 

His age – Mr Biden would be 78 on his first day in office – and status as a white male Washington insider at a time when the party had a historically diverse set of candidates elected to Congress last year will also be questioned. 

Mr Obama’s spokesman released a statement praising Mr Biden’s “knowledge, insight and judgment”. However the former president declined to give an endorsement and is understood to have decided not to back any candidate during the Democrat primaries.