Biden expected to launch presidential campaign next week

Pat Loeb
April 19, 2019 - 12:31 pm
Former vice president Joe Biden talks with officials after speaking at a rally in support of striking Stop & Shop workers in Boston, Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

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WASHINGTON (AP/KYW Newsradio) — Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to join the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential race next week.

The decision answers one of the most significant outstanding questions of the early presidential primary season, which has already seen announcements from 18 high-profile Democrats. Biden, 76, would be the oldest and most experienced politician in the race.

According to people who are coordinating with the Biden campaign, the former vice president and Delaware Senator will hold the official launch of his campaign Wednesday morning in Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of a white supremacist rally in which a counter-protester was intentionally hit by a car and killed. 

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The choice of location, they say, will give Biden a chance to contrast his civil rights advocacy with President Trump's response that there were "very fine people on both sides" of the protest.

Biden has been particularly outspoken against the rise of white supremacy in the Trump era.

If the plans, still being finalized hold, Biden will fly to Pittsburgh for an afternoon event and will end Wednesday night with a rally in front of the Rocky steps.

CBS News reported last month that Biden's headquarters would likely be in Philadelphia. The sources close to the campaign say he'll begin his fundraising Thursday night at the home of Comcast vice president David Cohen. Cohen is a frequent host to both Obama and Clinton fundraisers.

Following the annoncemnet, Biden is likely to quickly make visits to early-voting states.

Already, supportive donors have begun trying to raise money on his behalf.

"A number of us in San Francisco have begun organizing for Vice President Joe Biden and his nascent organization as he prepares to make his announcement later this month," wrote California-based attorney Thomas McInerney this week in an email obtained by the AP.

He continued: "If you are interested and able to get in on the ground floor of his presidential campaign and help the Vice President make a splash when he announces, please consider sending a check now made out to, 'Biden for President.'"

One of the most recognizable names in U.S. politics, Biden's high-profile, working-class background and connection to the Obama years would help him enter the race as a front-runner, although he faces questions about his age and whether his more moderate record fits with a party that has become more liberal.

With a record in elected office that stretches half a century, Biden faces multiple challenges.

Last month he struggled to respond to claims he touched 2014 Nevada lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores' shoulders and kissed the back of her head before a campaign event. A few other women have made similar claims, though none has alleged sexual misconduct.

The incident is just a taste of the harsh vetting from both parties expected for Biden, who has run for president twice before but never from such a strong political starting point.

His first White House bid in 1988 ended after a plagiarism scandal. And in recent weeks, he was repeatedly forced to explain his 1991 decision, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, to allow Anita Hill to face questions about her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the Supreme Court.

Biden has since apologized for his role in the hearing. But in the #MeToo era, it's another example of why critics believe he may struggle to catch on with the Democratic primary voters of 2020.

On paper at least, however, he may be well positioned to take on Trump in a general election.

The Republican president's allies have privately warned that Biden might be the biggest threat to Trump's re-election given Biden's potential appeal among the white-working class in the Midwest, the same region that allowed Trump to win the presidency.

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Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Thomas Beaumont, Meg Kinnard, Steve Peoples and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.

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