Joe Biden still isn’t saying whether he’s running for president. But he’s not saying he’s not running, either.
At a Democratic Party dinner in his home state of Delaware, the former vice president and longtime U.S. senator continued to sidestep the question on everyone’s mind: Will he seek the nomination for 2020?
Though an official announcement did not materialize in Dover Saturday night, sources on the Hill say Biden is 95 percent committed to running, according to the New York Times. Last week, his strategist Steve Ricchetti reportedly reached out to a number of unconfirmed but potential candidates to let them know Biden is likely to run.
Biden did tease about his intentions, however, during his keynote speech at the First State Democratic Dinner. In what appeared to be a slip of the tongue, he mentioned his potential presidential run.
“I’m told I get criticized by the new left,” Biden said. “I have the most progressive record of anybody running … of anybody who would run.”
Some national polls already show Biden as a favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination, just ahead of California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Unlike Harris and Sanders, who are running progressive campaigns that speak to the identity-politics framework of the 2020 election, Biden has shown he’ll stick to what he’s known for: reaching across party lines during a polarized time. And that might be working in his favor.
But during two previous bids for the nomination, in 1988 and 2008, Biden dropped out because of low poll numbers.
As the final speaker Saturday night, Delaware’s favorite son was met with chants of “Run, Joe, run,” which he also heard during a speech Tuesday at the International Association of Fire Fighters’ annual conference in Washington.
Biden, who represented Delaware for more than three decades, discussed the need for politics to follow “the Delaware way.”
“We don’t demonize our opponents,” he said. “We don’t belittle them. We don’t treat the opposition as the enemy. We may have even said a nice word about a Republican every once in a while, if they do something good.”
Biden, now 76, reminisced about his time in the U.S. Senate. He said Democrats and Republicans “used to know one another,” implying the stark contrast with today’s divisive political climate.
Although he aimed to make his speech about unity, Biden condemned President Donald Trump and his administration’s policies, calling back to the president’s speech that there were “very fine people on both sides” after the Charlottesville, Va., attack by white supremacists in August 2017.
“Our children are listening,” Biden said. “Our silence is complicity. With these words, the president of the United States has signed a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew that the threat to this nation was unlike anything I had seen in my lifetime.”
In closing, Biden spoke to America’s middle and working class — those he said were let down by Trump’s campaign promises. He described the 20th-century economy and “a basic bargain in America” that helped the middle class, in which all the shareholders of a business could succeed — not just the corporate elites.
“That bargain has been broken,” Biden said. “And it has happened gradually, but consistently. We need a new corporate ethic in America, which I won’t take the time to go into now, but you’re going to hear a hell of a lot more about it from me.”
Among the evening’s other speakers were the members of Delaware’s congressional delegation and its governor.
U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who just won re-election, gave a boisterous speech about Democrats’ success in the 2018 election and its “pinkish blue wave” — a reference to the increase in both women and Democrats in Congress.
“We are doing it for the people,” Blunt Rochester said. “We do it so women, my daughter, your daughter, my friend can have the right to do what she wants with her body. We do it for our brothers and sisters who are incarcerated all around this country, so they can have a second chance and get a clean slate.”
Gov. John Carney spoke to his personal relationship with Biden, and how he gave him his first job in politics. Carney and his wife, Tracey Quillen, met in then-Sen. Biden’s office when she was employed by him.
“He and his family also have inspired us to focus on not how many times we get knocked down, but how many times we get back up,” Carney said. “Here he is again to inspire us to look to the future. If you ask me, he doesn’t just look like he’s back, he looks like he’s ready for a fight.”
While Biden ponders his political future, 2020 candidates who have officially announced have begun touring the early primary states. This week, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker visited New Hampshire. Harris visited South Carolina last week.