Joe Biden 2020: What a Democratic Presidential race win means for America

Joe Biden has wanted to be president for at least 30 years. He first ran in 1988, crashing out in his bid for the Democratic nomination over a plagiarism scandal.  In 2008, Mr Biden took on Barack Obama but again stumbled at the first hurdle, securing less than one per cent of the vote at the all-important Iowa caucus.  At the last election it was tragedy that intervened, with the then-vice president declining to run after his son Beau’s death from cancer.  Now he has won the US presidency. Mr Biden has said he is "honoured" America has "chosen me to lead our great country", adding: "The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans - whether you voted for me or not." Fuelling his thinking, according to Larry Rusky, his communications director for both the 1988 and 2008 presidential bids, was a concern for where the country was heading under Donald Trump.  “Joe Biden has always believed in public service as a noble profession. I think it galls him immensely that Trump and others have tried to taint that," Mr Rusky told The Telegraph.  “To the extent that he is driven, he’s driven by a need to contribute to the relationship between the government and its people.” 2020 US election results in full What Joe Biden stands for The appeal of Mr Biden in the Age of Trump is clear in the eyes of supporters. A senator for 36 years and a vice-president for eight, he has the experience and authority that Mr Trump lacks.  His record of deal-making, from helping pass an assault weapons ban while Senate judiciary committee chairman to negotiating Ukrainian ceasefires and budget deals as vice-president, shows a bipartisanship lacking in the Trump White House.  Plus his uplifting rhetoric, inspiring back-story and Pennsylvanian roots proved he could win back the blue-collar voters who flocked to Mr Trump at the last election.  ]]> He’s an optimist, but, you know, not in La-La-LandJoe Biden's sister Val That was certainly what Mr Biden thought, according to his recent memoir. He spelled out how his 2016 campaign would have been pitched around winning back the middle class – where Mr Trump did so well.  Mr Biden’s stance on Brexit and a trade deal is also being watched closely in Whitehall. He opposed Brexit and recently issued a shot across the bows over Boris Johnson’s EU talks strategy, warning that any undermining of Northern Irish peace would kill a trade deal. Did anyone believe Biden could win? His supporters argued that Mr Biden had enough centrist clout to win back Trump voters while possessing sufficient left-wing credentials from the Obama years to inspire the Democratic base.  And it’s not just backers. “Eighty per cent of people I talk to on the Hill, both Republicans and Democrats, say Joe Biden has the best chance of beating Trump,” said a UK official whose job it is to know.  Early polls indicated that Mr Biden was ahead in the race and had been since the start of the year, with his lead bouncing between five and 10 percentage points. On October 23, he was at 51 per cent of the vote, compared with Mr Trump’s 43 per cent, according to leading US political site Real Clear Politics. Of course there was a chance that Mr Biden could win the popular vote, as Hillary Clinton did, and still fall short by losing the battleground states thanks to the electoral college system. So, to secure a victory, he needed to sway the swing voters in states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina. He lost Florida, but claimed Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. North Carolina have not been called yet.  What a Biden win means for America What type of leader will Mr Biden be? Fundamentally his pitch is a continuation of his five decades in Washington rather than deviation from it: a man of experience and decency. On one side, his career has been defined by coalition-building, an essential skill to pass legislation in the Senate, where he held a seat for 36 years. He was known to work across the aisle and even with old segregationists in his party, which drew criticism in the primaries race. The entire framing of his bid for the Democratic nomination was that – in contrast to Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Vermont senator who was his strongest opponent – it was not time for "revolution". Mr Biden’s centrism has proved a thorn in the side of Republican strategists desperate to declare him an extreme socialist. Mr Trump now accepts he is not a radical, instead arguing he would be controlled by radicals, a tougher attack to land. But Mr Biden's backers on the Left declare he will be the most progressive president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, the war-time leader hallowed in Democratic circles for creating America’s modern-day welfare system. What a Biden win could mean for the UK Mr Biden opposes Brexit, putting him at odds with Downing Street, and a Biden White House would push to protect the Northern Ireland peace deal. Mr Biden could seek to strengthen relati

Joe Biden 2020: What a Democratic Presidential race win means for America

Joe Biden has wanted to be president for at least 30 years. He first ran in 1988, crashing out in his bid for the Democratic nomination over a plagiarism scandal. 

In 2008, Mr Biden took on Barack Obama but again stumbled at the first hurdle, securing less than one per cent of the vote at the all-important Iowa caucus. 

At the last election it was tragedy that intervened, with the then-vice president declining to run after his son Beau’s death from cancer. 

Now he has won the US presidency.

Mr Biden has said he is "honoured" America has "chosen me to lead our great country", adding: "The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans - whether you voted for me or not."

Fuelling his thinking, according to Larry Rusky, his communications director for both the 1988 and 2008 presidential bids, was a concern for where the country was heading under Donald Trump

“Joe Biden has always believed in public service as a noble profession. I think it galls him immensely that Trump and others have tried to taint that," Mr Rusky told The Telegraph

“To the extent that he is driven, he’s driven by a need to contribute to the relationship between the government and its people.”

2020 US election results in full

What Joe Biden stands for

The appeal of Mr Biden in the Age of Trump is clear in the eyes of supporters. A senator for 36 years and a vice-president for eight, he has the experience and authority that Mr Trump lacks. 

His record of deal-making, from helping pass an assault weapons ban while Senate judiciary committee chairman to negotiating Ukrainian ceasefires and budget deals as vice-president, shows a bipartisanship lacking in the Trump White House. 

Plus his uplifting rhetoric, inspiring back-story and Pennsylvanian roots proved he could win back the blue-collar voters who flocked to Mr Trump at the last election. 

He’s an optimist, but, you know, not in La-La-LandJoe Biden's sister Val

That was certainly what Mr Biden thought, according to his recent memoir. He spelled out how his 2016 campaign would have been pitched around winning back the middle class – where Mr Trump did so well. 

Mr Biden’s stance on Brexit and a trade deal is also being watched closely in Whitehall. He opposed Brexit and recently issued a shot across the bows over Boris Johnson’s EU talks strategy, warning that any undermining of Northern Irish peace would kill a trade deal.

Did anyone believe Biden could win?

His supporters argued that Mr Biden had enough centrist clout to win back Trump voters while possessing sufficient left-wing credentials from the Obama years to inspire the Democratic base. 

And it’s not just backers. “Eighty per cent of people I talk to on the Hill, both Republicans and Democrats, say Joe Biden has the best chance of beating Trump,” said a UK official whose job it is to know. 

Early polls indicated that Mr Biden was ahead in the race and had been since the start of the year, with his lead bouncing between five and 10 percentage points. On October 23, he was at 51 per cent of the vote, compared with Mr Trump’s 43 per cent, according to leading US political site Real Clear Politics.

Of course there was a chance that Mr Biden could win the popular vote, as Hillary Clinton did, and still fall short by losing the battleground states thanks to the electoral college system. So, to secure a victory, he needed to sway the swing voters in states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina. He lost Florida, but claimed Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. North Carolina have not been called yet. 

What a Biden win means for America

What type of leader will Mr Biden be? Fundamentally his pitch is a continuation of his five decades in Washington rather than deviation from it: a man of experience and decency.

On one side, his career has been defined by coalition-building, an essential skill to pass legislation in the Senate, where he held a seat for 36 years. He was known to work across the aisle and even with old segregationists in his party, which drew criticism in the primaries race. The entire framing of his bid for the Democratic nomination was that – in contrast to Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Vermont senator who was his strongest opponent – it was not time for "revolution".

Mr Biden’s centrism has proved a thorn in the side of Republican strategists desperate to declare him an extreme socialist. Mr Trump now accepts he is not a radical, instead arguing he would be controlled by radicals, a tougher attack to land.

But Mr Biden's backers on the Left declare he will be the most progressive president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, the war-time leader hallowed in Democratic circles for creating America’s modern-day welfare system.

What a Biden win could mean for the UK

Mr Biden opposes Brexit, putting him at odds with Downing Street, and a Biden White House would push to protect the Northern Ireland peace deal.

Mr Biden could seek to strengthen relations with the UK as it stands rather than as he might wish them to be, according to Charles Kupchan, Professor of International Affairs, Georgetown University. 

Originally it was hoped that a quick trade deal could be done with the Trump administration, but now that seems like wishful thinking. In theory, Mr Trump's and Mr Biden’s aims are similar in that they both wish to protect and boost key US industries like agriculture and pharmaceuticals, but a change in administration across the pond could slow down talks. 

Read more: How a Biden win could affect Britain

Potential weaknesses

But for those hoping Mr Biden is the Democrats’ knight in shining armour, the list of weaknesses to his candidacy is not insubstantial. 

There are the gaffes. From asking a wheelchair-bound politician to stand for applause to telling a largely black audience that Mitt Romney wanted to “put y'all back in chains”, he developed a reputation for verbal slips while vice-president. 

It even has its own term, Bidenism, defined as a movement in “the art of committing public humiliation to themselves and other prominent public officials”. 

There is also concern how Mr Biden got dragged into a slanging match with Mr Trump during the first debate.

Mr Biden got increasingly exasperated by Mr Trump’s constant interventions, often shaking his head or chuckling in frustration and even, in one of the stand-out moments of the night, snapping: “Will you shut up, man?”

But in the second, much more reasoned, debate, Mr Biden held his nerve, while neither man landed a killer blow.

There is the baggage. In an anti-establishment moment, would US voters really go for the guy who spent almost half a century at the heart of Washington's "swamp"? 

In the second debate, Mr Trump attacked Mr Biden for being the ultimate Washington insider. Mr Biden was vulnerable on this front. One of Mr Trump's key claims is that he is the change so desperately wanted by a frustrated and disaffected US electorate. Mr Biden, who has spent decades in Washington, has struggled to repel claims that he is an establishment candidate.

Read more: Why Trump's portrayal of Biden as the ultimate Washington insider may have come too late

There are also claims of harassment. Most recently, a number of women came forward with claims that Mr Biden inappropriately touched them.

In response, Mr Biden released a video in which he said  "social norms are changing" and pledged to be “more mindful about respecting personal space in the future".

And then there is age. The former Delaware senator, four years older than Mr Trump, will be 78 on inauguration day – the oldest president ever elected for the first time.

Other concerns abound too. One former aide who worked on Mr Biden’s presidential bids but has since become disillusioned paints a downbeat picture of his former boss. 

“I feel the media loves the soap opera of Joe Biden and never looks below the hood,” said the ex-aide, who asked not to be named. 

“Does he really have the network, the fundraising base, the talent to put forward a [successful] presidential bid?”

The source went on: “There is nothing to prove he can win Pennsylvania and Ohio over any other candidate.” 

Joe Biden's 2020 policies

Health care: Mr Biden said he will expand the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of the Obama administration which expanded health insurance to millions of Americans. Mr Biden proposes expanding and implementing a plan that will ensure "an estimated 97 per cent of Americans".

Environment: Mr Biden has laid out an ambitious climate plan which includes overhauling the country's energy industry to achieve 100 per cent emissions-free power by 2035. The plan includes a pledge to invest $2 trillion in clean-energy infrastructure. In a move that is unlikely to have pleased the US oil lobby, Mr Biden said in the second debate that he would “transition from the oil industry”. Mr Trump jumped on this as a blunder, arguing it will put off voters in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Tax plan: Mr Biden says he will raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, which he defines as those with an income of more than $400,000 per year. He wants to impose a marginal tax rate increase – so the more a worker earns over that threshold, the more tax they pay.

Foreign policy: Mr Biden will look to repair some relationships, including with NATO and the World Health Organisation. He would also rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Mr Biden said he would enter into another international deal with Iran, which was agreed by President Obama and ripped up by Mr Trump.

Gun policy: Mr Biden would tackle America's gun crisis by banning assault weapons, introducing stronger background checks and banning online sales. He also supports limiting the number of weapons that Americans are allowed to buy. Mr Biden also wants anyone convicted of a hate crime to be banned from owning a gun.

The threat of the virus

Coronavirus upended the election in many ways, none more significant than Donald Trump being taken to hospital with the virus

But Mr Biden has promised to enact an action plan on day on in the White House. 

He has unveiled his coronavirus task force, which includes a British-born former US Surgeon General, as he told Americans: "Let's wear a mask. Let's get to work." 

Mr Biden said getting the pandemic under control was a priority for his administration, pointing out projections showed the US could still lose 200,000 people before the vaccine was widely available, and there was a "dark winter" ahead.

At the town hall event in October – which replaced the cancelled second presidential debate – Mr Biden said: "We're in a situation where we have 210,000-plus people dead and what's he doing? Nothing. He's still not wearing masks." 

Mr Biden put on his mask when leaving the stage to be closer to questioners.

In the key swing states, those who report ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ wearing a face mask were more likely to vote for Trump, with positive correlations visible between the share of such respondents and the size of red margins in counties. 

Read more: What happened in the final presidential debate?

His vice-president choice

Mr Biden picked Kamala Harris as his running mate.

The first ever black woman to be formally named on a major party's presidential ticket, Ms Harris is moderate, popular with the party's establishment, and has plenty of Washington experience.

She is also a senator for California and was the state's attorney-general.

Ms Harris is a skilled campaigner and her centrist policies and record as a prosecutor make her difficult to paint as a radical Democrat who is weak on crime, no matter how hard the Trump campaign tried.

As a biracial woman, Ms Harris also gave legitimacy to Mr Biden's assurance that he could enact the sweeping changes many Americans had called for in the wake of summer's racial inequality protests

Mr Biden also enjoyed a campaign funding boost since he announced he was running with Ms Harris, thanks in no small part to her friends and supporters in wealthy California.

But a key battleground for Mr Biden was trying to win the votes of progressives and the young, who lean more to the left. Ms Harris's background as a prosecutor arguably made this more difficult: many young Americans and voters on the party's left saw her as a "cop" with a history of prosecuting African-Americans rather than an agent of change or racial justice. 

Read more: Kamala Harris: who is Joe Biden's VP pick?

Family background

Away from politics, Mr Biden's personal tragedies unavoidably re-entered the spotlight as he ran for the presidency. 

On December 18, 1972, just weeks after he first won a Senate seat, Mr Biden’s wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident. 

Neilia’s car struck a tractor trailer while the family was out Christmas shopping. Mr Biden’s sons, Beau and Hunter, were badly injured but survived the crash. Mr Biden later remarried, having daughter Ashley with his wife Dr Jill Biden in 1981.

In August 2013, tragedy struck again when Beau, by then a politician himself talked of as a future presidential hopeful, was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died two years later. 

In the first debate, Mr Biden vigorously defended Mr Trump's attacks on his family, namely on the business dealings and drug issues of his son Hunter.

Later, Mr Biden talked emotionally about his son Beau, who died of cancer in 2015 after having served in Iraq. He attacked Mr Trump over a report, denied by the president, that he had referred to soldiers as "suckers" and "losers".

Mr Trump said: "I don't know Beau, I know Hunter." The president then said Hunter was thrown out of the military for drug use. Mr Biden responded: "That's not true. My son had a drug problem. He has overtaken it and I am proud of him."

During that period, Mr Biden continued his duties as vice-president and shared emotional moments with Mr Obama, the man who picked him as a running mate in 2008. 

Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden's business dealings were pushed to the front of the campaign agenda by Mr Trump's team.

The Trump campaign claimed that Mr Biden was implicated in inappropriate business activity while he was vice-president, which Mr Biden denied.

The Trump campaign staged a stunt aimed at grabbing the headlines moments before the second debate when a former business associate of Hunter gave a seven-minute statement to the press outlining new allegations.

Mr Trump brought up those claims on the debate stage in Nashville, Tennessee, calling Mr Biden “corrupt”. His rival shot back: “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life.”

The president invited Tony Bobulinski, a former business associate of Hunter, to the debate.

Mr Bobulinski described how he and Hunter had tried to do business in China in 2017. "I've heard Joe Biden say he never discussed business with Hunter. That is false,” Mr Bobulinski alleged at one point.

The statement included a slew of allegations. Mr Bobulinski said he was handing devices over to the FBI to back up his claims.

The move had echoes of a debate in the 2016 campaign when Mr Trump gathered Bill Clinton accusers before facing his wife and then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Mr Biden insists, as he has throughout this year, that such stories are smears. He also called Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Trump ally who has pushed the claims, a “Russian pawn”.

Mr Biden went on the attack in the second debate by bringing up Mr Trump’s Chinese bank account, which came to light recently via The New York Times. Mr Trump said it had been closed, and shot back: “I don’t make money from China. You do. I don’t make money from Ukraine. You do. I don’t make money from Russia.” Mr Biden denied that. 

Read more: As it happened: Blow-by-blow account of Donald Trump and Joe Biden's second presidential debate

Tensions with Obama

Mr Biden recalls in Promise Me, Dad, his book about those years, how Mr Obama once shed tears for his son and offered to personally pay for the treatment if money was short. 

The pair’s relationship, the most significant of Mr Biden’s political career, was so close in public that their “bromance” became a familiar joke before they left office. 

However there had been tensions between 2008 and 2016 as their time in the White House switched from achieving in office to planning for what came next. 

Mr Biden made little attempt in his memoir to hide his frustration at Mr Obama’s repeated attempts to urge him not to run for the presidency in 2016, believing Ms Clinton was better placed. 

Friends and families describe Mr Biden’s upbeat outlook as key to his success. “He’s an optimist, but, you know, not in La-La-Land,” his sister Val Biden Owens said. 

He is a car enthusiast, given a 1967 Corvette Stingray as a wedding gift by his father, and an American football player during his high school and college years. 

 Mr Rusky, a friend as well as former political aide, suggested that Mr Biden would have carefully weighed up a potential 2020 presidential bid. 

“Assuming that the family is settled and he is feeling physically up for it, then it really comes down to doing the political equation,” said Mr Rusky, discussing what would have been going through Mr Biden's mind. 

“Is his voice welcome in the debate? Is there space in the race? Is there a demand for his participation?”

Mr Rusky said Mr Biden would not let concerns about age stand in his way.

Once, before the 2012 election campaign, a friend quoted Pope John XXIII about “approaching old age” and suggested he take it easy. 

Mr Biden shot back with a quotation of his own, referencing the poet Dylan Thomas:  “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”