Biden to launch presidential bid Thursday

Former Vice President Joe Biden will enter the presidential race on Thursday and present himself as the man who can unify not only a splintered Democratic Party but a country that has been fractured by Donald Trump’s presidency.

Sources close to the former vice president say Biden’s campaign will be centered on the argument that he can defeat Trump and that he can best unify a nation divided along geographic, racial, gender and generational lines during the Trump era.

It’s an argument intended to sidestep questions about whether Biden is not liberal enough for a party that has moved to the left since his years as vice president.

“There’s a lot of talk about what lane he’s in. Is he a moderate or a progressive? I think he’s trying to be above the fray and above all that,” said one source who is familiar with the pending campaign’s strategy.

Biden is expected to announce his entry into the race with a Thursday video, according to a source. While details are still being ironed out, he is then expected to appear next week in Pittsburgh before moving on to other early voting states.

Biden will enter a crowded race that already has attracted 20 candidates.

He is banking his candidacy on the idea that, above all, Democrats want to nominate a candidate who will be a sure thing against Trump, and that they will gravitate toward the former vice president as someone who can put an end to the divisive politics ripping the country apart.

It’s a bet, supporters say, on voters wanting to pick a candidate who will be seen as a uniter and not a divider — and one that can be aimed not only at Trump but at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who currently looks like Biden’s top competition for the Democratic nomination.

“This is a crucial point in the country’s history, and I think his goal is bringing the country together,” the source said. “The country shouldn’t be so divisive.”

Biden, who has put off his campaign launch several times, has offered glimpses of how he hopes he’ll be perceived across the country.

He’s calling himself an “Obama-Biden Democrat,” a tagline that ties him to the president he served for eight years, and one he hopes will build faith with progressives who see him as too centrist in comparison with Sanders or Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) or Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Biden has touted his ability to work across party lines without apology, seeking to turn a potential argument against him into a strength.

“I read in The New York Times today that one of my problems if I were to run for president, I like Republicans,” Biden said in January in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “OK, well bless me father for I have sinned.”

While that argument could be a tough sell for progressives already aligned with other candidates, Biden and his supporters believe it can win when the top priority in the party is simply finding someone who can win in November.

“A lot of people in the party would hate me for saying this but gender, race, the flavor of the minute, none of that matters in this race,” one strategist said. “The only thing that matters is someone who can unite the party and beat Trump, and Biden is pretty much the only candidate in this race who can do that.”

Sources who have spoken to Biden and his team in recent weeks say the former vice president has voiced confidence in this approach.

A Monmouth University poll out on Tuesday showed Biden in the lead among national Democrats with 27 percent support. He was followed by Sanders, who received 20 percent.

“I’ve never felt more confident that he’s ready,” said one source close to the campaign.

The exact details of the launch were still being ironed out late Monday but Biden was expected to launch his campaign by video and then make several stops in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, where he was born.

In recent weeks, Biden and his team have sought to shore up support from donors and rack up endorsements — particularly from unions — to enter the race from a position of strength.

Some allies have been annoyed by the delays — and Biden’s seemingly endless deliberations.

“The thing is, Joe Biden will be the best general election candidate but so far they’ve been all over the place. They can’t even settle on when is best to launch. That says a lot,” said one ally who has spoken to the vice president in recent weeks.

Others say Biden’s team felt no rush to enter the race, even when Biden was criticized by some women for inappropriately touching them.

“They’ve always felt like time was on their side,” the Biden ally said. “They always thought he was the best candidate.”

His team is now strategizing how to best win over Democrats who harbor doubts about his nomination.

“The biggest strength of Joe Biden is his ability to connect and empathize one-on-one with people,” said one Democratic strategist. “So I’d anticipate a lot of time spent at kitchen tables, union halls, fire houses — where he can look into their eyes, talk about issues, give them hope that this country will return to a semblance of normalcy and integrity under his watch.”

“He can also fire up a crowd like no other, so I’m sure there be a good mix of rallies and inspirational speeches,” the strategist added. “He’s also heavily steeped in policy and knows the ins and outs of every type of federal regulation and legislation, and can speak with authority on pretty much any issue. He’s a rare combination of personal connection and policy expertise — those who underestimate him do so at their own risk.”

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