Former US vice president Joe Biden says he's contesting from Democrats against President Trump to save "the soul of the US."
Former US vice president Joe Biden formally joined the crowded Democratic presidential contest on Thursday, declaring the soul of the nation at stake if President Donald Trump wins re-election.
In a video posted on Twitter, Biden focused on the 2017 deadly clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Biden noted Trump's comments that there were some "very fine people" on both sides of the violent encounter, which left one woman dead.
"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," Biden said.
"And at that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime."
"We are in the battle for the soul of this nation," Biden continued.
"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."
The 76-year-old Biden becomes an instant front-runner alongside Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is leading many polls and has proved to be a successful fundraiser.
Among Democrats, Biden has unmatched international and legislative experience, and he is among the best-known faces in the US politics.
Biden is betting that his working-class appeal and ties to Barack Obama's presidency will help him overcome questions about his place in today's increasingly liberal Democratic Party.
Obama did not endorse Biden on Thursday but did take the unusual step of weighing in on the race. An Obama spokeswoman said selecting Biden as his running mate in 2008 was "one of the best decisions he ever made."
20 Democrats jockeying for the chance
Biden's announcement marks the unofficial end of the chaotic early phase of the 2020 presidential season. The field now features at least 20 Democrats jockeying for the chance to take on Trump next year. Several lesser-known candidates may still join the race.
But the anti-establishment wave that swept Trump into office has not been kind to either party's statesmen. Biden's team worries about his fundraising ability and his tendency to commit gaffes. His centrist approach in a party moving left on major policy debates raises questions about his appeal.
Four years Trump's senior, Biden would be the oldest person ever elected president should he win. Yet his allies believe the skeptics will ultimately warm to his strong connections to the Obama years.
Biden has said he would campaign as an "Obama-Biden Democrat," who is as pragmatic as he is progressive. He's aiming to be a conduit between working-class white voters and the younger, more diverse voters who backed Obama in historic numbers.
Biden's record questioned
Just minutes after the announcement, the GOP lashed out against Biden's record in the Obama administration, a line of attack in sharp contrast with recent criticism against other 2020 Democrats that has largely focused on them being too liberal, or even socialists.
"Biden's fingerprints are all over foreign policy blunders and the weakest economic recovery since World War II," Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said.
"We don't need eight more years of Biden. Just ask President Obama, who isn't even endorsing his right-hand man."
Privately, Trump allies have warned that Biden might be the biggest re-election threat given the former vice president's potential appeal among the white working class in the Midwest, the region that gave Trump a path to the presidency.
Biden is paying special attention to Pennsylvania, a state that swung to Trump in 2016 after voting for Democratic presidential candidates for decades.
The former vice president will be in the state three times within the opening weeks of his campaign. He'll be in Philadelphia on Thursday evening headlining a fundraiser at the home of David L. Cohen, executive senior vice president of Comcast. Biden is aiming to raise $500,000 at the event.
He will hold an event in Pittsburgh on Monday and will return to Philadelphia in the next two weeks for a major rally.
He's scheduled to make his first media appearance as a 2020 presidential contender Friday morning on ABC's "The View."