After weathering a few tumultuous #MeToo accusation-filled weeks, former Vice President Joe Biden made it official Thursday morning: he’s running for president, again. In his announcement video, Biden went spiritual, framing 2020 as a “battle for the soul of his nation,” and ruthless, accusing Trump of defending white supremacists. President Trump has since responded by taking a couple of shots at his potential opponent and issuing a challenge.
In what makes his third attempt to run for president, Biden released his announcement video Thursday morning. “The core values of this nation… our standing in the world… our very democracy…everything that has made America — America — is at stake,” Biden tweeted. “That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.”
The video prominently features a reference to Trump saying there were “very fine people on both sides” following the Charlottesville Confederate monument protests that erupted in violence and resulted in a white supremacist plowing into and killing a peaceful liberal protester. Trump critics say the president was specifically defending white nationalists rather than referencing those peacefully protesting the removal of Confederate monuments.
“I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of [the people at the rally] were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee,” Trump said in a lengthy press conference after the tragic event. “Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. You have some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” he said, adding: “You had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.”
Amid backlash for his initial response, Trump went on to specifically denounce white supremacy.
“In that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I’d seen in my lifetime,” said Biden, describing Trump’s presidency and “‘all he embraces” as “an aberrant moment in time.” If Trump is allowed to win again in 2020, said Biden, “he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are.” He “cannot stand by and watch that happen,” he declares.
Trump has since responded by pulling out another epithet and taunting his potential challenger over his intelligence and ability to navigate what are sure to be rather complicated political waters on his own side.
“Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “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!
While Biden’s former running mate is not officially endorsing any candidate, his camp has made sure to underscore Obama’s confidence in Biden, but has also noted that he is happy to see the “diverse” field of Democratic candidates.
Recent polls show that Biden matches up well against Trump. “A new Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted April 19-21 among 1,992 registered voters found Biden leading the president by 8 percentage points in a hypothetical matchup, 42 percent to 34 percent,” Morning Consult reported Wednesday. “Biden has a significant edge over Trump among women (17 points), millennials (22 points) and independents (10 points).”
Morning Consult notes that Trump’s numbers are tracking far lower than Obama’s heading into the 2012 election, where the president consistently polled in the mid-40s and led challenger Mitt Romney by several points. The pollster has also found that Biden consistently leads the Democratic field, currently holding about a 6-point edge of the second-place candidate, Bernie Sanders.
This article has been revised for clarity and to include more context for Trump’s Charlottesville quote.