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Joe Biden announces 2020 presidential campaign

The former US vice-president Joe Biden has announced he will seek the presidency, becoming the most prominent name to enter the crowded field of Democratic candidates competing to take on Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

He made his announcement in a video posted on Twitter, declaring: “We are in the battle for the soul of this nation. If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”

He continued: “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.”

It is Biden’s third run for the presidency, after two unsuccessful attempts at earning the Democratic nomination in 1988 and 2008.

Bolstered by his legacy as Barack Obama’s vice-president, Biden was expected to be an early frontrunner in a diverse Democratic field that features several heavyweight contenders but no clear favourite. Multiple senior party figures had already endorsed Biden, and senator Bob Casey added his endorsement early Thursday.

“As both a US Senator and our Vice President, he has delivered results for the middle class, kept our country safe and strengthened our standing in the world,” Casey said.

Other candidates include the senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey, as well as the Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and housing secretary under Obama.

If successful, Biden, 76, would become the oldest person to be elected president in US history. But allegations from several women that they were left feeling uncomfortable by their physical interactions with Biden has created some uncertainty over his prospects.

While Biden has not been accused of sexual assault or harassment, a mounting list of women have come forward to complain that he violated their personal space. The allegations prompted renewed scrutiny of what had long been dismissed as Biden’s affectionate posture and raised fresh questions over his viability as a candidate in the #MeToo era.

The controversy started with Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state assemblywoman who claimed in an op-ed that Biden had placed his hands on her shoulders, leaned in to smell her hair and kissed the back of her forehead at a political event in 2014. Other women subsequently came forward with similar stories, prompting an apology from Biden, who pledged in a video to adjust his behaviour.

“Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying,” Biden said. “Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful of personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility and I will meet it.”

Days later, Biden made light of the complaints in a speech where he twice jokingly referred to getting “permission” to hug people onstage.

As the Democratic party lurches left, emboldened by an animated progressive base, Biden is poised to serve as a more establishment-friendly voice whose legacy as vice-president was forged in part by leading negotiations with Republicans in Congress.

Joe Biden, former vice president

Biden unsuccessfully ran for the nomination in 1988 and 2008, and his campaign is likely to be dogged by controversy  after allegations from several women that they were left feeling uncomfortable by their physical interactions with him. If successful, Biden would become the oldest person to be elected president in US history. But bolstered by his legacy as Barack Obama’s vice-president, Biden is expected to be an early frontrunner.

Cory Booker, New Jersey senator

Booker first made a name as the hands-on mayor of Newark. Known for his focus on criminal justice reform and impassioned speeches on immigration, he has though been criticized for ties to Wall Street.

Pete Buttigieg, South Bend mayor

Buttigieg wants to be the first openly gay millennial president. A Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar, he became the youngest mayor of a mid-size US city at the age of 29. As a Navy Reserve lieutenant he deployed to Afghanistan while serving as mayor.

Julián Castro, former housing and urban development secretary

Castro casts himself as an antidote to Trump and the adminstration’s hardline immigration policies. The grandson of a Mexican immigrant and raised by single mother, the 44-year-old Democrat is one of the most prominent Latinos in Democratic politics.

John Delaney, former Maryland congressman

He has delivered his message of pragmatism to voters in all 99 of Iowa’s counties since he officially kicked off the race in July 2017. The multimillionaire banking entrepreneur wants to build a big-tent party that appeals to independents and moderate Republicans.

Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii congresswoman

An Iraq war veteran who has vowed to run a campaign focused on issues of “war and peace”. Gabbard made history as the first Samoan American and the first Hindu elected to Congress. But she has drawn criticism for meeting with Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, and progressives are wary of her past conservative views on on social issues.

Kirsten Gillibrand, New York senator

Years before the #MeToo movement, the New York senator was leading efforts in Congress to combat sexual assault in the military and on college campuses. The former corporate lawyer has embraced a slate of economic ideas supported by the party’s progressive wing.

Kamala Harris, California senator

Harris is one of Trump’s fiercest critics, and has built a national reputation grilling administration officials during their confirmation hearings. A former state attorney general and the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, Harris believes she has the unique profile to take on Trump.

John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado

Before he served two terms as governor of Colorado, the 67-year-old Democrat worked as a geologist for a petroleum company. After a lay off, he switched careers and opened a successful brewpub in Denver that helped to revitalize the city’s downtown.

Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington

Inslee is running as the “only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority”. As the country experiences more powerful hurricanes, scorching wildfires and submerged coastlines, polls show public concern is growing.

Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator

On Election Night 2018, Klobuchar coasted to a third term as senator in a state Trump almost won. Next morning she was on every short list of potential presidential candidates. Supporters say her success with rural voters makes her a formidable candidate in the Rust Belt, while her calm demeanour provides a clear contrast with Trump.

Beto O’Rourke, former Texas congressman

A one-time guitarist for an El Paso punk band called Foss, O’Rourke had kept a relatively low profile as a three-term congressman with little name recognition. He rose to national prominence during the 2018 midterms, when his bid to unseat Senator Ted Cruz garnered unprecedented grassroots support and a historic fundraising haul.

Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator

Sanders turned a long-shot, anti-establishment bid for the presidency into a “political revolution” that energized the party’s progressive base. His political career began nearly 40 years ago, but it wasn’t until his 2016 run that Sanders became a national figure as a new generation of Democrats – and 2020 contenders – embraced his populist economic policies.

Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator

Her sharp criticism of Wall Street and big corporations has made Warren a favorite among progressive activists, and she will campaign on a message of a rigged economic system and income inequality.

Marianne Williamson, author

This is not the spiritual guru and a new age author’s first foray into politics: in 2014, she mounted an unsuccessful congressional bid in California. Her entry adds some star-power to the race that may attract more celebrities.

Andrew Yang, businessman

A former tech executive and entrepreneur running the longest of long shot campaigns centered on the perils of automation. His central plank is a plan to give every American adult a salary of $1,000 per month, paid for by a tax on companies that benefit the most from automation.

Lauren Gambino, Sam Morris and Martin Belam

Following a recent revelation that he had praised a vulnerable House Republican in a paid speech weeks before the 2018 midterms, Biden offered an unapologetic response, stating: “I read in the New York Times today, one of my problems if I run for president is I like Republicans. Well, bless me father for I have sinned.”

Biden’s supporters say his appeal among blue-collar voters is key to defeating Trump and winning back what was once a core constituency of Democrats. Biden’s home state of Pennsylvania was crucial in sending Trump to the White House by a razor-thin margin over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Biden, who publicly weighed running against Clinton in the 2016 primaries but ultimately chose not to, has suggested he could have defeated Trump. “I regret it every day,” Biden said of his decision.

But whether Biden’s record could withstand a Democratic primary in today’s political climate remains to be seen.

On one hand, Biden was lauded as vice-president for championing LGBT rights – famously endorsing same-sex marriage before Obama – and leading the White House’s charge for stricter gun laws and expansive labour rights. He also aggressively pushed for reforms to reduce sexual assault on college campuses, and as a former senator drafted the landmark Violence Against Women Act.

At the same time, Biden has drawn scrutiny over his prior support for tough-on-crime legislation, which helped pave the way for mass incarceration.

He also faced widespread criticism in recent years for his tenure as the chair of the Senate judiciary committee in the early 90s, during which time the then supreme court justice nominee Clarence Thomas was accused by his former employee Anita Hill of sexual harassment. Biden has since apologised for his handling of the congressional hearings that followed, in which an all-male, all-white panel questioned Hill.

Since leaving the office of the vice-presidency, Biden has been a constant critic of Trump and accused the president of “trashing American values”.

Referencing the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about groping and kissing women without their consent, Biden once sparked a feud with the president by declaring: “They asked me would I like to debate this gentleman and I said no. I said: ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.’”

Biden later walked back his comments, stating of Trump: “I don’t want to get down in the mosh pit with this guy.”

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