Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat set to run against President Donald Trump in the November 3 national election, is making his third run for the White House -- but for the first time stands as his party’s presumptive nominee.
If he wins, and is inaugurated next January, Biden would become the country’s 46th chief executive. By then, he would be 78, the oldest U.S. president ever, surpassing the 74-year-old Trump.
Biden has said throughout months of campaigning that he is seeking to put an end to Trump’s “aberrant” administration.
“We’re in a battle for the soul of America,” Biden says on his campaign web site. “It’s time to remember who we are. We’re Americans: tough, resilient, but always full of hope. It’s time to treat each other with dignity. Build a middle class that works for everybody. Fight back against the incredible abuses of power we’re seeing. It’s time to dig deep and remember that our best days still lie ahead.”
Biden has characterized Trump as an unfit leader of the Free World, saying, “It’s time for respected leadership on the world stage—and dignified leadership at home.”
But amid an historic coronavirus pandemic, Biden’s campaign through the early days of July has been unlike any modern U.S. run for the presidency. He has largely waged his campaign from his home in the eastern state of Delaware with occasional forays to Wilmington, the state’s biggest city, and to nearby Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for speeches and policy discussions with small groups of people.
The former U.S. senator has held only one news conference over a three-month period and shunned large political rallies for fear of catching or helping to spread the coronavirus if large crowds gathered to hear him speak.
Accomplishments and personal life: After graduating from the University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School, Biden, at age 29, became in 1972 one of the youngest lawmakers ever elected to the U.S. Senate. But weeks after the election, personal tragedy struck. Biden’s wife Neilia and their one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping. Biden entertained thoughts of resigning his newly won Senate seat to care for the couple’s two other children, both sons, but instead began daily back-and-forth 90-minute train commutes between Washington and his Delaware home, a practice he followed through six terms --36 years -- in the Senate.
Several years after his first wife’s death, Biden met and later married Jill Jacobs Tracy, an aspiring schoolteacher, with whom he has a daughter born in 1981. Biden ran for president in 1987 and 2007 but failed to gain much support from voters either time. His 1987 bid was derailed in part because he admitted plagiarizing phrases from a British politician. After Biden dropped out of the presidential race in 2007, then-candidate Barack Obama later asked him to be his running mate. The two went on to win the 2008 election and re-election in 2012. Biden served as Obama’s vice president for eight years.
Foreign policy: While in the Senate, Biden was a longtime member of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee and served twice as the panel’s chairman. He opposed the Persian Gulf War in 1991 but voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He advocated for U.S. and NATO intervention in Bosnia in 1994. While serving as vice president under Obama, Biden helped to formulate U.S. policy toward Iraq, including the withdrawal of troops in 2011. He also supported the NATO-led military intervention in Libya in 2011.
Biden played other key roles during his years in the Senate, especially in crafting anti-crime bills, including a federal assault weapons ban that stood for 10 years until 2004 but has not been renewed. He backed tough sentencing for convicted criminals, a stance he has modified in his 2020 run for the presidency. Now he says that “too many people are incarcerated in the United States – and too many of them are black and brown.”
Biden has said that he considers the Violence Against Women Act “the single most important legislation” he helped shepherd through Congress during his Senate tenure.
But his oversight of two contentious Supreme Court hearings left a lasting impact. In the first, in 1987, Biden presided over the controversial nomination hearing of Judge Robert Bork, a conservative nominee for the nation’s highest court, which lasted a record 12 days and led to a Senate rejection. Critics say the hearing marked the beginning of the modern polarized political fight over Supreme Court nominees. At the second, in 1991, Biden presided over the Supreme Court nomination hearing of Clarence Thomas, a conservative African American put forward by then-President George H.W. Bush, that has rankled some of Biden’s Democratic intra-party foes for years.
Anita Hill, a lawyer and Thomas co-worker, accused Thomas of sexual harassment and testified against him, allegations that Thomas denied. But Biden, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not permit further witnesses to buttress Hill’s testimony. Women’s groups and liberal legal activists sharply criticized Biden’s handling of the hearings. Eventually the Senate narrowly confirmed Thomas’s nomination and he sits on the Supreme Court to this day. In April 2019, Biden called Hill to voice regret over the manner in which he conducted the Thomas hearings, but she said later she remained deeply dissatisfied.
Platform: If Biden wins the election, many people expect much of his foreign and domestic policy to resemble former President Obama’s, with a focus on restoring the U.S. economy, policies to address climate change, shoring up NATO and reaching out to military alliances in Europe and Asia that President Trump has criticized. But on other major issues, such as how to approach relations with China, immigration and ongoing U.S. military engagements in Afghanistan, Africa and the middle east, his plans appear to still be taking shape. Generally, Trump has withdrawn the United States from multinational trade, nuclear and climate deals that he did not consider to be in Washington’s best interests. Biden will likely try to restore at least some of those.
At home, Biden over the years has had a reputation of reaching across the political aisle to work with Republican lawmakers, But during the lengthy fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden pushed back against criticism that he is not liberal enough for today’s Democratic Party, saying at an event in March, “I have the most progressive record of anybody running.” Biden emphasized the record of the Obama administration, including expanding health care, supporting efforts to legalize gay marriage, and pushing for the government bailout of the U.S. auto industry.
Biden is widely expected to choose a woman as his running mate, part of a domestic policy outreach that will likely champion progressive causes for racial equality and women’s rights in the United States and abroad.
Biden contends that Trump has abandoned the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, adding he would “stop the political theater and willful misinformation that has heightened confusion and discrimination.” Biden says he would “ensure that public health decisions are made by public health professionals and not politicians.”
The two candidates are planning to face off in three debates in September and October.
Megan Duzor contributed to this report.