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Biden makes it official: He’s running for president in 2020

"We are in a battle for the soul of this nation."

Former US Vice President Joe Biden speaking during the First State Democratic Dinner in Dover, Delaware, last month. CREDIT:  SAUL LOEB / AFP/ Getty Images
Former US Vice President Joe Biden speaking during the First State Democratic Dinner in Dover, Delaware, last month. CREDIT: SAUL LOEB / AFP/ Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, joining a crowded primary field in the bid to unseat President Donald Trump.

In a video released on social media, Biden framed his campaign as a battle for “the core values of the nation.”

“I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation,” Biden says in the video, showing images of the August 2017 protests by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Biden called those demonstrations “a defining moment” for the country.

“Our standing in the world, our very democracy — everything that’s made America America is at stake. That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.”

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If he wins, Biden would be 77 years old on election day, the oldest president ever elected. The former senator from Delaware has spent the two-and-a half years since the end of the Obama administration raising funds for his Biden Foundation, teaching at the University of Pennsylvania — and mulling whether to launch this third and probably final run for the White House. He also kept up a busy schedule as a high-profile Democratic surrogate during the 2018 midterms.

With almost universal name recognition, Biden, who was vice president for eight years and in the Senate for 36 years, ranks high in early polling among the large field of candidates. His standing in the party gave him the ability to announce his candidacy well after many other contenders.

“What I love about Joe Biden is, people know his value, they know his character,” said former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton and onetime head of the Democratic National Committee.

“He will build a strong relationship which will benefit America,” McAuliffe, who until just last week was himself considering a White House bid, told MSNBC on Wednesday.

While he has not yet endorsed a candidate in the race, “I’m a huge fan, a huge supporter,” of the former vice president’s, McAuliffe said.

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In the latter part of his Senate career, he enjoyed the exalted status of an elder statesman in the chamber, and was a popular figure with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Biden joins some 20 other candidates already running for the Democratic nomination. He said he ultimately made the decision to enter the race because he believes he is in the best position to defeat Trump and provide what he feels the nation sorely needs at this time — competent, experienced, even-tempered governance.

“I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” Biden said at the University of Montana in December. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I’ve worked on my whole life.”

For eight years, through January 2009, Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president, providing decades of Washington experience and ties to Capitol Hill to bolster the president, who had served just four years in the Senate before moving into the White House.

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In May 2015, Biden lost his son Beau to cancer, a family tragedy that contributed to his decision not to run for Democratic nomination in 2016. It’s a decision that he said, after the fact, he felt some regret about.

His candidacy has thrust the longtime senator’s complicated personal and political history back into the spotlight. In 1991, Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He and the other men on the committee were widely criticized for their treatment of Anita Hill, a law professor who said Thomas had sexually harassed her when they worked together.

Hill later said she felt Biden did a “terrible” job of running the hearings, saying that Biden failed to call witnesses and experts who would have supported her allegations.

“There were three women who were ready and waiting and subpoenaed to be giving testimony,” she told the Huffington Post in 2014.

She told Elle magazine in an interview a few years later that although Biden had been quoted as saying he owed Hill an apology, he never followed through with one.

Recently, Biden’s touchy-feely way of interacting with supporters also has come under scrutiny, after several women stepped forward to say that this overly familiar interactions with them made them feel uncomfortable.

He also will have to  navigate the double-edged sword of his four-decade year long career of public service, which saw triumphs like the Violence Against Women Act legislation that he championed, but also support for criminal justice bills now viewed as draconian and statements decades ago that expressed opposition to busing to achieve integration.

Biden was planning on Thursday to kick off his campaign with a fundraiser in Philadelphia.

Biden was raised in Scranton, and has many close ties in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania voted narrowly for Trump in the 2016 election, and will be a key state for Democrats next year as they try to reclaim the White House.