He's running. Former Vice President Joe Biden officially jumped into the 2020 presidential race Thursday, with a video that evoked the deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville in August 2017 and described the event as a "defining moment for this nation."
"We can't forget what happened in Charlottesville," he said in a campaign video released Thursday morning. "Even more important, we have to remember who we are. This is America."
Biden attacked President Donald Trump head-on for the comments the president made after the violent clashes, which ultimately led to the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer. Trump said that "there are some very fine people on both sides."
"With those words, the president drew a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it," Biden said in the video. "In that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime."
Trump waited more than 48 hours to condemn the Charlottesville clashes, and he faced a torrent of criticism for defending — and even emboldening — the group of white supremacists who descended on the college town that day. They showed up to the University of Virginia campus with torches and chanted slogans like "Jews will not replace us."
The president said they were "innocently protesting" the takedown of a monument to Robert E. Lee.
Biden's campaign video makes a point to show footage of the demonstration and call the people who attended "Klansmen," "white supremacists," and "neo-Nazis."
Despite the rising number of hate crimes in the U.S. and increasingly violent and bold displays from white supremacists and other far-right groups, Trump recently said that white nationalism wasn't a problem in the U.S.
"I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems," the president said following the March massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, when a white nationalist gunman killed 50 people. Trump has even embraced the term "nationalist" and referred to himself as one.
Biden has also faced attacks of his own from the president — even before he announced his 2020 run.
In late March and early April, seven women accused 76-year-old Biden of touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable, although none of them classified the behavior as inherently sexual. The controversy that followed cast doubt on Biden’s viability as a candidate in the age of #MeToo, especially for a candidate known for his physicality when meeting with constituents.
During the ensuing fallout, Biden released a video without an apology that said he would work to improve on respecting people’s physical space. “I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space,” he added. “And that’s a good thing.”
Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women, responded to Biden’s video by posting a doctored version that showed one Biden emerging from behind the couch and sniffing the another Biden’s hair.
Despite those controversies, Biden is polling better than most of the other 19 candidates gunning for the White House in 2020. Most polls put Biden as either the frontrunner or the stiffest competition for Sen. Bernie Sanders. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday put Biden at the top, with 24 percent of the vote. Bernie came in second with 19 percent. Other polls released just this week, however, show Bernie has a strong lead over Biden.
Biden is reportedly seeking to build support by clinching early endorsements from major labor unions in battleground states. Most of the 2020 candidates — including Biden — have scrambled to show their support for big labor by showing up on the picket lines of Stop & Shop worker strikes and hurling their support behind striking teachers in the United States.
Cover image: Former vice president Joe Biden speaks at a rally in support of striking Stop & Shop workers in Boston, Thursday, April 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)