Former US Vice-President Joe Biden has declared a presidential bid, putting an end to months of speculation.
In a video announcement, Mr Biden argued that the “core values of the nation… our very democracy, everything that has made America America, is at stake”.
The 76-year-old enters a crowded race for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
He is up against 19 other hopefuls, including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders.
In his announcement, Mr Biden recalled President Donald Trump’s much-criticised remark that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the deadly Charlottesville white nationalist riots of 2017.
“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,” Mr Biden said.
“I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But 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.”
Mr Biden is the most experienced of the Democratic candidates. A six-term senator, he ran twice unsuccessfully for president – in 1988 and 2008 – and later served as President Barack Obama’s deputy for two terms.
Responding to the announcement, a spokesman for Mr Obama said selecting Mr Biden as his running mate “was one of the best decisions he ever made” and the two had “forged a special bond”, but the former president notably stopped short of an endorsement.
Mr Biden was tipped to run for president again in 2016, the year Mr Trump was elected, but ruled himself out after the death of his 46-year-old son, Beau Biden, from a brain tumour.
He has enjoyed relative popularity among Democrats in recent years, consistently leading every national poll of the Democratic primary tracked by the website RealClearPolitics. The sheer weight of his experience sets him apart from many of the younger 2020 Democratic hopefuls, and widespread name recognition makes him an immediate front-runner.
Mr Biden is also betting on having the strongest appeal of the Democratic candidates across America’s Midwest, where many low-income voters have abandoned the party in recent years in favour of Mr Trump.
The former vice-president’s campaign suffered a stumble before it began, when he was forced to address claims he had inappropriately invaded the personal space of women. He apologised, saying: “The boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset,” he said. “I understand it and I’ll be much more mindful.”
In further reaction to Mr Biden’s declaration, President Trump tweeted: “Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe. I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign.
” It will be nasty – you will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick & demented ideas. But if you make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate!”
Joe Biden enters the Democratic presidential contest as a front-runner, if not the front-runner. He has near universal name recognition, a close connection to the halcyon days (at least, for Democrats) of the Obama presidency, and the potential to raise vast amounts of campaign money through traditional Democratic donor networks.
Of course, so did Hillary Clinton in 2015 – and we all know how that turned out.
Like the former secretary of state, Mr Biden in his launch video seems to be defining himself as much by who he isn’t – Donald Trump – as what he wants to do. It was a oft-criticised strategy for Mrs Clinton in 2016, but with two years of the Trump presidency in the books, Mr Biden seems to be betting that a majority of Americans who have now seen Trumpism in practice have had enough.
Mr Biden shares some of the political weaknesses demonstrated in Mrs Clinton’s presidential race as well. Her lengthy time in the public eye left a long record for her opponents to pick apart, and bound her to a status quo establishment many Americans had come to distrust.
Expect the former vice-president’s position against school bussing to end segregation in the 1970s, his chairmanship of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991, and his support for the 2003 Iraq War and stringent anti-crime and bankruptcy bills to be spotlighted by the diverse and talented primary field opposing him.
Then there’s his advanced age, propensity for verbal stumbles, allegations of inappropriate physical contact and status as a two-time loser in past White House bids.
The former vice-president has a lot going for him. He also has a lot going against him. The durability of his campaign is one of the big questions hovering over the early days of the 2020 Democratic race. Those questions will soon be answered.
Who is Joe Biden?
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr was born on 20 November 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, one of four children in an Irish-Catholic family.
In 1972, Mr Biden was elected to the US Senate at the age of 29, and took office a few weeks later when he turned 30 – the minimum age to enter the Senate.
Just before he took office, he was devastated by tragedy: his wife Neilia and infant daughter Naomi were killed in a car crash.
Mr Biden first ran for the presidency in the 1988 election, but he withdrew after admitting that he had plagiarised a speech by Neil Kinnock, the leader of the Labour Party in the UK at the time.
After that bid he spent time rising through the Senate ranks, eventually becoming chairman of the judiciary and foreign relations committees.
In 2008 he ran for president again, but failed to gain the political traction he needed and dropped out again. Instead, he joined the Obama ticket as candidate for vice-president.