Editorial

Stage set for interesting US presidential campaign

Friday, April 26, 2019

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Finally, Mr Joseph Biden, the former United States vice-president, has ended months of speculation by declaring his candidacy for the Democratic party nomination for the 2020 presidential election.

Mr Biden, of course, is no political neophyte, having served as President Barack Obama's deputy for two terms (2008-2016), ran twice for the presidency (1988 and 2008), and has spent six terms in the US Senate, rising to the chairmanship of the judiciary and foreign relations committees.

Political observers will also remember that in 2016 Mr Biden appeared on course to enter the race for the Democratic party nomination but after his son died from a brain tumour he ruled himself out.

Now he has entered what is considered a very crowded field of 19 other hopefuls, even though packed fields are not uncommon to US politics as in the run-up to the 2016 election 18 candidates sought the Republican party nomination. By February 11 though, only seven remained to face the further brutal and bruising gauntlet of American politics.

From all accounts, Mr Biden is highly respected, especially for his expertise on foreign policy, civil liberties, and the US judiciary, to name a few areas.

His gregarious and warm personality has also endeared him to many Americans, even despite cases where he makes embarrassing gaffes.

Whether those gaffes and misstatements, as well as his decades in public office will affect his campaign negatively, is left to be seen. However, at the moment Mr Biden is riding on polls — conducted before he announced his candidacy — showing that he is more popular than all the other Democratic candidates.

Of note is the fact that the other Democratic candidates have grounded their campaigns on issues such as health care and immigration, while Mr Biden has pointedly stated that his candidacy represents a fight for the soul of the USA.

The “core values of the nation... our very democracy, everything that has made America, America, is at stake”, he states in a video announcing his bid for the White House.

To make that point, 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,” the former vice-president said.

Mr Biden, now 76 years old, knows very well that he is in for a tough ride. Already his presidential campaign history is being rehashed with news organisations recalling that in his first bid for the job he was forced to quit the race in September 1987 after revelations that he plagiarised a portion of his stump speech and committed plagiarism in law school. Also, he dropped out of the 2008 race after attracting less than one per cent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.

The stage is now set for an interesting campaign. Political observers will no doubt get out the popcorn, settle before their televisions and watch in awe.


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