Brian Slodysko, The Associated PressPublished Saturday, March 16, 2019 9:40PM EDTLast Updated Sunday, March 17, 2019 7:55AM EDT
DOVER, Del. — Did Joe Biden accidentally reveal his plans to run for the White House? Or was it just another slip of the tongue by the former vice-president with a reputation for veering off script?
In a keynote speech at a dinner for the Delaware Democratic Party, Biden boasted Saturday that he has « the most progressive record of anybody running. » The only problem is that Biden hasn’t announced whether he will launch a third run for the White House, despite repeatedly teasing the possibility.
He quickly corrected himself, clarifying that he meant to say « anybody who would run, » then adding « I didn’t mean it » while a cheering crowd in his home state nearly drowned him out.
Although Biden has been known to go off script, his remark is likely to be viewed as a Washington-style gaffe — a case of accidentally telling the truth.
During the rest of his speech he sounded very much like a candidate-in-waiting. He repeatedly attacked President Donald Trump, accusing him of stoking division and anger, and bemoaned that the ascendant « new left » of his own party has criticized him for being cordial toward Republicans.
« The only thing strong enough to tear America apart is America itself and we’ve seen its start, » he said.
Biden accused Trump of backing away from America’s role as a leader on the world stage and abandoning its allies. He said it’s no coincidence that « fake news » — one of Trump’s favourite labels — « has become the phrase of choice for every despot terrorizing his people. »
« We’re literally in a battle for the soul of America, » he said.
More than a dozen Democrats have already launched formal 2020 presidential campaigns. After former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s entered the race last week, Biden, who is his party’s best-known and best-connected presidential prospect, is the last major contender to remain on the sidelines.
But that didn’t stop the friendly home-state crowd from reveling in the idea that will jump in.
« I told him recently I have one campaign left in me, » said Sonia Schorr Sloan, a fundraiser and longtime Biden adviser.
Delaware Gov. John Carney said Biden « doesn’t just look like he’s back. He looks like he’s ready for a fight. »
Just minutes before Biden’s slip of the tongue, though, Carney raised the possibility of a Biden campaign with a bit more delicacy.
« I am not up here to break any news tonight, » Carney told the crowd. Then he added: « In my humble opinion, we have never needed Joe Biden more than we need him right now. »