Biden Has Started Telling Supporters He Plans to Run for President, Source Says

Margaret Talev and Jennifer Epstein
Biden Has Started Telling Supporters He Plans to Run for President, Source Says

(Bloomberg) -- The race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination may be about to get a front-runner.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has told some supporters that he’s making plans to jump into the race, joining a diverse field of candidates vying to challenge President Donald Trump, a person familiar with the conversations said.

Biden, 76, has led in early polls of primary voters, and could capture significant support from major Democratic donors, many of whom have held off from backing other candidates while awaiting his decision.

An announcement of his plans is expected in the coming weeks, according to the person, a Biden ally who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation.

A spokesman for Biden, Bill Russo, declined to comment.

Biden has indicated in recent weeks that he’s close to announcing a campaign for the Democratic nomination, which would be his third, but hadn’t made a final decision. In a speech Saturday at a Democratic Party event in his home state of Delaware he made a verbal slip that hinted at a campaign. “I have the most progressive record of anybody running,” Biden told a cheering audience before adding, “anybody who would run.”

Biden’s early advantage is driven by his high name recognition and his close association with former President Barack Obama. There’s also a sense among some Democrats that Biden’s appeal with working-class white voters in the Rust Belt would make up for weaknesses that cost Hillary Clinton the White House in 2016.

Yet he also would enter the campaign with some liabilities, including his age -- four years older than Trump -- and positions on issues that are more moderate than significant portions of the party’s voting base, which increasingly is made up of young voters, minorities and women. Biden has a longer political record than any other potential 2020 candidate and it includes scores of positions that are unpopular with Democratic voters, including some from which he’s since sought to distance himself or for which he’s apologized.

His verbal slip came as he defended his advocacy for what he called the “Delaware way” -- treating Republicans with respect even if he disagrees with them. He’s been criticized by fellow Democrats for speaking generously of Republicans, including a recent declaration that his successor as vice president, Mike Pence, is a “decent guy.”

He walked back that comment amid criticism from a range of Democrats, including LGBT supporters, who object to Pence’s record on gay rights.

Biden has tested some themes of his potential campaign, which would rest heavily on his appeal to working-class voters while resisting other Democrats’ aggressive attacks on big business and Wall Street.

Large Field

Even though the first formal contest for the nomination isn’t until February 2020, there already are 15 other Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination. The field includes Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who lost to Clinton in 2016, and first-time contenders Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota -- all sitting senators -- as well as former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, who launched his campaign last week.

Biden is laying some groundwork to build up a strong early fundraising, according to the Wall Street Journal, which earlier reported Biden’s outreach.

Several of the Democratic candidates, including Sanders and Warren, have emphasized relying on small donors. Running up big totals from grassroots supporters has become a marker for the campaigns an an indicator of broad support from voters.

O’Rourke captured headlines Monday with his whopping $6.1 million fundraising haul in the first 24 hours after announcing his candidacy. That topped the $5.9 million raised by Sanders in one day, and the $1.5 million raised by Harris.

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net;Jennifer Epstein in Washington at jepstein32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, ;Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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