Biden's father had been wealthy, but suffered financial setbacks around the time Biden was born, and for several years the family lived with Biden's maternal grandparents. Scranton fell into economic decline during the 1950s and Biden's father could not find steady work. Beginning in 1953, the family lived in an apartment in Claymont, Delaware, before moving to a house in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden Sr. later became a successful used-car salesman, maintaining the family in a middle-class lifestyle.
While studying at the University of Delaware and Syracuse University, Biden obtained five student draft deferments from the Vietnam War. In 1968, based on a physical examination, he was given a conditional medical deferment; in 2008, a spokesperson for Biden said his having had "asthma as a teenager" was the reason for the deferment.
In 1968, Biden clerked at a Wilmington law firm headed by prominent local Republican William Prickett and, he later said, "thought of myself as a Republican". He disliked incumbent Democratic Delaware governor Charles L. Terry's conservative racial politics and supported a more liberal Republican, Russell W. Peterson, who defeated Terry in 1968. Biden was recruited by local Republicans but registered as an Independent because of his distaste for Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon.
In 1969, Biden practiced law first as a public defender and then at a firm headed by a locally active Democrat who named him to the Democratic Forum, a group trying to reform and revitalize the state party; Biden subsequently reregistered as a Democrat. He and another attorney also formed a law firm.Corporate law, however, did not appeal to him, and criminal law did not pay well. He supplemented his income by managing properties.
In 1970, Biden ran for the 4th district seat on the New Castle County Council on a liberal platform that included support for public housing in the suburbs. The seat had been held by Republican Henry R. Folsom, who was running in the 5th District following a reapportionment of council districts. Biden won the general election by defeating Republican Lawrence T. Messick, and took office on January 5, 1971. He served until January 1, 1973, and was succeeded by Democrat Francis R. Swift. During his time on the county council, Biden opposed large highway projects, which he argued might disrupt Wilmington neighborhoods.
Results of the 1972 U.S. Senate election in Delaware
In 1972, Biden defeated Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs to become the junior U.S. senator from Delaware. He was the only Democrat willing to challenge Boggs. With minimal campaign funds, he was given no chance of winning. Family members managed and staffed the campaign, which relied on meeting voters face-to-face and hand-distributing position papers, an approach made feasible by Delaware's small size. He received help from the AFL–CIO and Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell. His platform focused on the environment, withdrawal from Vietnam, civil rights, mass transit, equitable taxation, health care, and public dissatisfaction with "politics as usual". A few months before the election, Biden trailed Boggs by almost thirty percentage points, but his energy, attractive young family, and ability to connect with voters' emotions worked to his advantage, and he won with 50.5 percent of the vote. At the time of his election, he was still 29 years old, but reached the constitutionally required age of 30 before he was sworn in as Senator.
Death of wife and daughter
On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after the election, Biden's wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Delaware. Neilia's station wagon was hit by a semi-trailer truck as she pulled out from an intersection. Their sons Beau (aged3) and Hunter (aged2) survived the accident and were taken to the hospital in fair condition, Beau with a broken leg and other wounds and Hunter with a minor skull fracture and other head injuries. Biden considered resigning to care for them, but Senate Majority LeaderMike Mansfield persuaded him not to.
Years later, Biden said he had heard that the truck driver allegedly drank alcohol before the collision. The driver's family denied that claim, and the police never substantiated it. Biden later apologized to the family.
The accident had filled him with anger and religious doubt. He wrote that he "felt God had played a horrible trick" on him, and he had trouble focusing on work.
Second marriage and daughter
Biden and his second wife, Jill, met in 1975 and married in 1977
To see his sons, Biden traveled by train between his Delaware home and D.C.—74 minutes each way—and maintained this habit throughout his 36 years in the Senate.
During his early years in the Senate, Biden focused on consumer protection and environmental issues and called for greater government accountability. In a 1974 interview, he described himself as liberal on civil rights and liberties, senior citizens' concerns and healthcare but conservative on other issues, including abortion and military conscription.
In 1993, Biden voted for a provision that deemed homosexuality incompatible with military life, thereby banning gays from serving in the armed forces. In 1996, he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, thereby barring individuals in such marriages from equal protection under federal law and allowing states to do the same. In 2015, the act was ruled unconstitutional in Obergefell v. Hodges.
In the mid-1970s, Biden was one of the Senate's strongest opponents of race-integration busing. His Delaware constituents strongly opposed it, and such opposition nationwide later led his party to mostly abandon school integration policies. In his first Senate campaign, Biden had expressed support for busing to remedy de juresegregation, as in the South, but opposed its use to remedy de facto segregation arising from racial patterns of neighborhood residency, as in Delaware; he opposed a proposed constitutional amendment banning busing entirely.
In May 1974, Biden voted to table a proposal containing anti-busing and anti-desegregation clauses but later voted for a modified version containing a qualification that it was not intended to weaken the judiciary's power to enforce the 5th Amendment and 14th Amendment. In 1975, he supported a proposal that would have prevented the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare from cutting federal funds to districts that refused to integrate; he said busing was a "bankrupt idea [violating] the cardinal rule of common sense" and that his opposition would make it easier for other liberals to follow suit. At the same time he supported initiatives on housing, job opportunities and voting rights. Biden supported a measure[when?] forbidding the use of federal funds for transporting students beyond the school closest to them. In 1977, he co-sponsored an amendment closing loopholes in that measure, which President Carter signed into law in 1978.
By August his campaign's messaging had become confused due to staff rivalries, and in September, he was accused of plagiarizing a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Biden's speech had similar lines about being the first person in his family to attend university. Biden had credited Kinnock with the formulation on previous occasions, but did not on two occasions in late August.:230–232
Earlier that year he had also used passages from a 1967 speech by Robert F. Kennedy (for which his aides took blame) and a short phrase from John F. Kennedy's inaugural address; two years earlier he had used a 1976 passage by Hubert Humphrey. Biden responded that politicians often borrow from one another without giving credit, and that one of his rivals for the nomination, Jesse Jackson, had called him to point out that he (Jackson) had used the same material by Humphrey that Biden had used.
A few days later, an incident in law school in which he drew text from a Fordham Law Review article with inadequate citations was publicized. Biden was required to repeat the course and passed with high marks. At Biden's request the Delaware Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility reviewed the incident and concluded that he had violated no rules.
He made several false or exaggerated claims about his early life: that he had earned three degrees in college, that he had attended law school on a full scholarship, that he had graduated in the top half of his class, and that he had marched in the civil rights movement. The limited amount of other news about the race amplified these revelations and on September 23, 1987, Biden withdrew from the race, saying his candidacy had been overrun by "the exaggerated shadow" of his past mistakes.
Kinnock himself was more forgiving; the two men met in 1988, forming an enduring friendship.
As chairman, Biden presided over two highly contentious U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings. When Robert Bork was nominated in 1988, Biden reversed his approval—given in an interview the previous year—of a hypothetical Bork nomination. Conservatives were angered, but at the hearings' close Biden was praised for his fairness, humor, and courage. Rejecting the arguments of some Bork opponents, Biden framed his objections to Bork in terms of the conflict between Bork's strong originalism and the view that the U.S. Constitution provides rights to liberty and privacy beyond those explicitly enumerated in its text. Bork's nomination was rejected in the committee by a 9–5 vote and then in the full Senate, 58–42.
During Clarence Thomas's nomination hearings in 1991, Biden's questions on constitutional issues were often convoluted to the point that Thomas sometimes lost track of them, and Thomas later wrote that Biden's questions were akin to "beanballs". After the committee hearing closed, the public learned that Anita Hill, a University of Oklahoma law school professor, had accused Thomas of making unwelcome sexual comments when they had worked together. Biden had known of some of these charges, but initially shared them only with the committee because Hill was then unwilling to testify. The committee hearing was reopened and Hill testified, but Biden did not permit testimony from other witnesses, such as a woman who had made similar charges and experts on harassment, saying he wanted to preserve Thomas's privacy and the hearings' decency. The full Senate confirmed Thomas by a 52–48 vote, with Biden opposed. Liberal legal advocates and women's groups felt strongly that Biden had mishandled the hearings and not done enough to support Hill. Biden later sought out women to serve on the Judiciary Committee and emphasized women's issues in the committee's legislative agenda. In 2019, he told Hill he regretted his treatment of her, but Hill said afterward she remained unsatisfied.
Biden was a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He became its ranking minority member in 1997 and chaired it from June 2001 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009. His positions were generally liberal internationalist. He collaborated effectively with Republicans and sometimes went against elements of his own party. During this time he met with at least 150 leaders from 60 countries and international organizations, becoming a well-known Democratic voice on foreign policy.
Biden voted against authorization for the Gulf War in 1991, siding with 45 of the 55 Democratic senators; he said the U.S. was bearing almost all the burden in the anti-Iraq coalition.
Biden wrote an amendment in 1992 to compel the Bush administration to arm the Bosnians, but deferred in 1994 to a somewhat softer stance the Clinton administration preferred, before signing on the following year to a stronger measure sponsored by Bob Dole and Joe Lieberman. The engagement led to a successful NATO peacekeeping effort. Biden has called his role in affecting Balkans policy in the mid-1990s his "proudest moment in public life" related to foreign policy.
Biden addresses the press after meeting with Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in Baghdad in 2004.
Biden was a strong supporter of the War in Afghanistan, saying, "Whatever it takes, we should do it." As head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said in 2002 that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was a threat to national security and there was no other option than to "eliminate" that threat. In October 2002, he voted in favor of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, approving the U.S. invasion of Iraq. As chair of the committee, he assembled a series of witnesses to testify in favor of the authorization. They gave testimony grossly misrepresenting the intent, history, and status of Saddam and his secular government, which was an avowed enemy of al-Qaida, and touted Iraq's fictional possession of weapons of mass destruction. Biden eventually became a critic of the war and viewed his vote and role as a "mistake", but did not push for withdrawal. He supported the appropriations for the occupation, but argued that the war should be internationalized, that more soldiers were needed, and that the Bush administration should "level with the American people" about its cost and length.
After exploring the possibility of a run in several previous cycles, in January 2007, Biden declared his candidacy in the 2008 elections. During his campaign, Biden focused on the Iraq War, his record as chairman of major Senate committees, and his foreign-policy experience. In mid-2007, Biden stressed his foreign policy expertise compared to Obama's. Biden was noted for his one-liners during the campaign; in one debate he said of Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani: "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb and 9/11."
Biden had difficulty raising funds, struggled to draw people to his rallies, and failed to gain traction against the high-profile candidacies of Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. He never rose above single digits in national polls of the Democratic candidates. In the first contest on January 3, 2008, Biden placed fifth in the Iowa caucuses, garnering slightly less than one percent of the state delegates. He withdrew from the race that evening.
Despite its lack of success, Biden's 2008 campaign raised his stature in the political world.:336 In particular, it changed the relationship between Biden and Obama. Although they had served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, they had not been close: Biden resented Obama's quick rise to political stardom, while Obama viewed Biden as garrulous and patronizing.:28, 337–338 Having gotten to know each other during 2007, Obama appreciated Biden's campaign style and appeal to working-class voters, and Biden said he became convinced Obama was "the real deal".:28, 337–338
Shortly after Biden withdrew from the presidential race, Obama privately told him he was interested in finding an important place for Biden in his administration. Biden declined Obama's first request to vet him for the vice-presidential slot, fearing the vice presidency would represent a loss in status and voice from his Senate position, but he later changed his mind. In early August, Obama and Biden met in secret to discuss the possibility, and developed a strong personal rapport. On August 22, 2008, Obama announced that Biden would be his running mate.The New York Times reported that the strategy behind the choice reflected a desire to fill out the ticket with someone with foreign policy and national security experience—and not to help the ticket win a swing state or to emphasize Obama's "change" message. Others pointed out Biden's appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters, as well as his willingness to aggressively challenge Republican nominee John McCain in a way that Obama seemed uncomfortable doing at times. In accepting Obama's offer, Biden ruled out running for president again in 2016, but his comments in later years seemed to back off that stance, as he did not want to diminish his political power by appearing uninterested in advancement. Biden was officially nominated for vice president on August 27 by voice vote at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
On October 2, 2008, Biden participated in the vice-presidential debate with Palin at Washington University in St. Louis. Post-debate polls found that while Palin exceeded many voters' expectations, Biden had won the debate overall. During the campaign's final days, he focused on less populated, older, less well-off areas of battleground states, especially Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where polling indicated he was popular and where Obama had not campaigned or performed well in the Democratic primaries. He also campaigned in some normally Republican states, as well as in areas with large Catholic populations.
Under instructions from the campaign, Biden kept his speeches succinct and tried to avoid offhand remarks, such as one he made about Obama's being tested by a foreign power soon after taking office, which had attracted negative attention. Privately, Biden's remarks frustrated Obama. "How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?" he asked.:411–414, 419 Obama campaign staffers referred to Biden blunders as "Joe bombs" and kept Biden uninformed about strategy discussions, which in turn irked Biden. Relations between the two campaigns became strained for a month, until Biden apologized on a call to Obama and the two built a stronger partnership.:411–414 Publicly, Obama strategist David Axelrod said Biden's high popularity ratings had outweighed any unexpected comments. Nationally, Biden had a 60% favorability rating in a Pew Research Center poll, compared to Palin's 44%.
At the same time Biden was running for vice president he was also running for reelection to the Senate, as permitted by Delaware law. On November4, he was reelected to the Senate, defeating Republican Christine O'Donnell. Having won both races, Biden made a point of waiting to resign from the Senate until he was sworn in for his seventh term on January 6, 2009. He became the youngest senator ever to start a seventh full term, and said, "In all my life, the greatest honor bestowed upon me has been serving the people of Delaware as their United States senator." Biden cast his last Senate vote on January 15, supporting the release of the second $350billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and resigned from the Senate later that day.[n 3] In an emotional farewell, Biden told the Senate: "Every good thing I have seen happen here, every bold step taken in the 36-plus years I have been here, came not from the application of pressure by interest groups, but through the maturation of personal relationships." Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner appointed longtime Biden adviser Ted Kaufman to fill Biden's vacated Senate seat.
Biden being sworn in as vice president on January 20, 2009
First term (2009–2013)
Biden said he intended to eliminate some explicit roles assumed by George W. Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, and did not intend to emulate any previous vice presidency. He chaired Obama's transition team and headed an initiative to improve middle-class economic well-being. In early January 2009, in his last act as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he visited the leaders of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and on January 20 he was sworn in as the 47th vice president of the United States—the first vice president from Delaware and the first Roman Catholic vice president.
Obama was soon comparing Biden to a basketball player "who does a bunch of things that don't show up in the stat sheet". In May, Biden visited Kosovo and affirmed the U.S. position that its "independence is irreversible". Biden lost an internal debate to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about sending 21,000 new troops to Afghanistan, but his skepticism was valued, and in 2009, Biden's views gained more influence as Obama reconsidered his Afghanistan strategy. Biden visited Iraq about every two months, becoming the administration's point man in delivering messages to Iraqi leadership about expected progress there. More generally, overseeing Iraq policy became Biden's responsibility: Obama was said to have said, "Joe, you do Iraq." Biden said Iraq "could be one of the great achievements of this administration". His January 2010 visit to Iraq in the midst of turmoil over banned candidates from the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary election resulted in 59 of the several hundred candidates being reinstated by the Iraqi government two days later. By 2012, Biden had made eight trips there, but his oversight of U.S. policy in Iraq receded with the exit of U.S. troops in 2011.
In late April 2009, Biden's off-message response to a question during the beginning of the swine flu outbreak, that he would advise family members against traveling on airplanes or subways, led to a swift retraction by the White House. The remark revived Biden's reputation for gaffes. Confronted with rising unemployment through July 2009, Biden acknowledged that the administration had "misread how bad the economy was" but maintained confidence the stimulus package would create many more jobs once the pace of expenditures picked up. On March 23, 2010, a microphone picked up Biden telling the president that his signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was "a big fucking deal" during live national news telecasts. Despite their different personalities, Obama and Biden formed a friendship, partly based around Obama's daughter Sasha and Biden's granddaughter Maisy, who attended Sidwell Friends School together.
Members of the Obama administration said Biden's role in the White House was to be a contrarian and force others to defend their positions.Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, said that Biden helped counter groupthink. White House press secretary Jay Carney, Biden's former communications director, said Biden played the role of "the bad guy in the Situation Room". Another senior Obama advisor said Biden "is always prepared to be the skunk at the family picnic to make sure we are as intellectually honest as possible." Obama said, "The best thing about Joe is that when we get everybody together, he really forces people to think and defend their positions, to look at things from every angle, and that is very valuable for me." The Bidens maintained a relaxed atmosphere at their official residence in Washington, often entertaining their grandchildren, and regularly returned to their home in Delaware.
In March 2011, Obama delegated Biden to lead negotiations with Congress to resolve federal spending levels for the rest of the year and avoid a government shutdown. By May 2011, a "Biden panel" with six congressional members was trying to reach a bipartisan deal on raising the U.S. debt ceiling as part of an overall deficit reduction plan. The U.S. debt ceiling crisis developed over the next few months, but Biden's relationship with McConnell again proved key in breaking a deadlock and bringing about a deal to resolve it, in the form of the Budget Control Act of 2011, signed on August 2, 2011, the same day an unprecedented U.S. default had loomed. Biden had spent the most time of anyone in the administration bargaining with Congress on the debt question, and one Republican staffer said, "Biden's the only guy with real negotiating authority, and [McConnell] knows that his word is good. He was a key to the deal."
In October 2010, Biden said Obama had asked him to remain as his running mate for the 2012 presidential election, but with Obama's popularity on the decline, White House Chief of StaffWilliam M. Daley conducted some secret polling and focus group research in late 2011 on the idea of replacing Biden on the ticket with Hillary Clinton. The notion was dropped when the results showed no appreciable improvement for Obama, and White House officials later said Obama had never entertained the idea.
Biden and Obama, July 2012
Biden's May 2012 statement that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage gained considerable public attention in comparison to Obama's position, which had been described as "evolving". Biden made his statement without administration consent, and Obama and his aides were quite irked, since Obama had planned to shift position several months later, in the build-up to the party convention, and since Biden had previously counseled the president to avoid the issue lest key Catholic voters be offended. Gay rights advocates seized upon Biden's statement, and within days, Obama announced that he too supported same-sex marriage, an action in part forced by Biden's remarks. Biden apologized to Obama in private for having spoken out, while Obama acknowledged publicly it had been done from the heart. The incident showed that Biden still struggled at times with message discipline, as Time wrote, "Everyone knows Biden's greatest strength is also his greatest weakness." Relations were also strained between the vice presidential and presidential campaigns when Biden appeared to use his position to bolster fundraising contacts for a possible run for president in 2016, and he ended up being excluded from Obama campaign strategy meetings.
The Obama campaign nevertheless valued Biden as a retail-level politician who could connect with disaffected blue-collar workers and rural residents, and he had a heavy schedule of appearances in swing states as the reelection campaign began in earnest in spring 2012. An August 2012 remark before a mixed-race audience that Republican proposals to relax Wall Street regulations would "put y'all back in chains" led to a similar analysis of Biden's face-to-face campaigning abilities versus his tendency to go off track. The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Most candidates give the same stump speech over and over, putting reporters if not the audience to sleep. But during any Biden speech, there might be a dozen moments to make press handlers cringe, and prompt reporters to turn to each other with amusement and confusion."Time magazine wrote that Biden often went too far and "Along with the familiar Washington mix of neediness and overconfidence, Biden's brain is wired for more than the usual amount of goofiness."
Biden favored arming Syria's rebel fighters. As Iraq fell apart during 2014, renewed attention was paid to the Biden-Gelb Iraqi federalization plan of 2006, with some observers suggesting Biden had been right all along. Biden himself said the U.S. would follow ISIL "to the gates of hell". Biden had close relationships with several Latin American leaders and was assigned a focus on the region during the administration; he visited the region 16 times during his vice presidency, the most of any president or vice president.
Biden with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on November 10, 2016
Role in the 2016 presidential campaign
During his second term, Biden was often said to be preparing for a possible bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. With his family, many friends, and donors encouraging him in mid-2015 to enter the race, and with Hillary Clinton's favorability ratings in decline at that time, Biden was reported to again be seriously considering the prospect and a "Draft Biden 2016" PAC was established.
As of September 11, 2015[update], Biden was still uncertain about running. He cited his son's recent death as a large drain on his emotional energy, and said, "nobody has a right... to seek that office unless they're willing to give it 110% of who they are." On October 21, speaking from a podium in the Rose Garden with his wife and Obama by his side, Biden announced his decision not to run for president in 2016. In January 2016, Biden affirmed that it was the right decision, but admitted to regretting not running for president "every day".
After Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton on June 9, 2016, Biden endorsed her later that day. Throughout the 2016 election, Biden strongly criticized Clinton's opponent, Donald Trump, in often colorful terms.
After leaving the vice presidency, Biden became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, while continuing to lead efforts to find treatments for cancer. In 2017 he wrote a memoir, Promise Me, Dad, and went on a book tour. Biden earned $15.6million in 2017–2018. In 2018, he gave a eulogy for Senator John McCain, praising McCain's embrace of American ideals and bipartisan friendships.
Biden remained in the public eye, endorsing candidates while continuing to comment on politics, climate change, and the presidency of Donald Trump. He also continued to speak out in favor of LGBT rights, continuing advocacy on an issue he had become more closely associated with during his vice presidency. In 2019, Biden criticized Brunei for its intention to implement Islamic laws that would allow death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality, calling it "appalling and immoral" and saying, "There is no excuse—not culture, not tradition—for this kind of hate and inhumanity." By 2019, Biden and his wife reported that their assets had increased to between $2.2 million and $8 million from speaking engagements and a contract to write a set of books.
Biden at his presidential kickoff rally in Philadelphia, May 2019
Between 2016 and 2019, media outlets often mentioned Biden as a likely candidate for president in 2020. When asked if he would run, he gave varied and ambivalent answers, saying "never say never". At one point he suggested he did not see a scenario where he would run again, but a few days later, he said, "I'll run if I can walk." A political action committee known as Time for Biden was formed in January 2018, seeking Biden's entry into the race. He finally launched his campaign on April 25, 2019, saying he was prompted to run, among other reasons, by his "sense of duty."
Beginning in 2019, Trump and his allies falsely accused Biden of getting the Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin fired because he was supposedly pursuing an investigation into Burisma Holdings, which employed Hunter Biden. Biden was accused of withholding $1billion in aid from Ukraine in this effort. In 2015, Biden pressured the Ukrainian parliament to remove Shokin because the United States, the European Union and other international organizations considered Shokin corrupt and ineffective, and in particular because Shokin was not assertively investigating Burisma. The withholding of the $1billion in aid was part of this official policy.
In March 2019 and April 2019, Biden was accused by eight women of previous instances of inappropriate physical contact, such as embracing, touching or kissing. Biden had previously described himself as a "tactile politician" and admitted this behavior has caused trouble for him. In April 2019, Biden pledged to be more "respectful of people's personal space".
Throughout 2019, Biden stayed generally ahead of other Democrats in national polls. Despite this, he finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, and eight days later, fifth in the New Hampshire primary. He performed better in the Nevada caucuses, reaching the 15% required for delegates, but still was behind Bernie Sanders by 21.6 percentage points. Making strong appeals to black voters on the campaign trail and in the South Carolina debate, Biden won the South Carolina primary by more than 28 points. After the withdrawals and subsequent endorsements of candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, he made large gains in the March3 Super Tuesday primary elections. Biden won 18 of the next 26 contests, including Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, putting him in the lead overall. Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg soon dropped out, and Biden expanded his lead with victories over Sanders in four states (Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri) on March 10.
In late March 2020, Tara Reade, one of the eight women who previously accused Biden of inappropriate physical contact, made a new allegation against Biden, accusing him of a 1993 sexual assault. There were inconsistences between Reade's 2019 and 2020 allegations. Biden and his campaign vehemently denied the sexual assault allegation.
When Sanders suspended his campaign on April 8, 2020, Biden became the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president. On April 13, Sanders endorsed Biden in a live-streamed discussion from their homes. Former President Barack Obama endorsed Biden the next day. In March 2020, Biden committed to choosing a woman as his running mate. In June, Biden met the 1,991-delegate threshold needed to secure the party's presidential nomination. On August 11, he announced U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate, making her the first African American and first South Asian American vice-presidential nominee on a major-party ticket.
On January 6, 2021, during Congress's electoral vote count, Trump told supporters gathered in front of the White House to march to the Capitol, saying, "We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn't happen. You don't concede when there's theft involved." Soon after, they stormed the Capitol. During the insurrection at the Capitol, Biden addressed the nation, calling the events "an unprecedented assault unlike anything we've seen in modern times." He specifically called on Trump to "go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege", adding, "it must end now." After the Capitol was cleared, Congress resumed its joint session and officially certified the election results with Pence declaring Biden and Harris the winners.
On February 4, 2021, the Biden administration announced that the United States was ending its support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. In his first visit to the State Department as president, Biden said "this war has to end" and that the conflict had created a "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe". On February 25, the Biden administration "struck a site in Syria used by two Iranian-backed militia groups in response to rocket attacks on American forces in the region in the past two weeks". This marked the first known action by the military under Biden. On April 14, Biden announced that the United States would delay the withdrawal of all troops from the war in Afghanistan until September 11 of that year, ending the country's direct military involvement in Afghanistan after 20 years. The decision, changing an upcoming May target set by the Trump administration, met with a wide range of reactions, from support and relief to trepidation at the possible collapse of the Afghan government without American support.
Also in March, amid a rise in migrants entering the U.S. from Mexico, Biden told migrants: "Don't come over." He said that the U.S. was arranging a plan for migrants to "apply for asylum in place", without leaving their original locations. In the meantime, migrant adults "are being sent back", Biden said, in reference to the continuation of the Trump administration's Title 42 policy for quick deportations. Biden earlier announced that his administration would not deport unaccompanied migrant children; the rise in arrivals of such children exceeded the capacity of facilities meant to shelter them (before they were sent to sponsors), leading the Biden administration in March to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help manage these children.
Biden has said the U.S. needs to "get tough" on China and build "a united front of U.S. allies and partners to confront China's abusive behaviors and human rights violations". He has called China the "most serious competitor" that poses challenges to the United States' "prosperity, security, and democratic values". Biden has voiced concerns about China's "coercive and unfair" economic practices and human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region to the Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. He also pledged to sanction and commercially restrict Chinese government officials and entities who carry out repression.
Biden was consistently ranked one of the least wealthy members of the Senate, which he attributed to his having been elected young. Feeling that less-wealthy public officials may be tempted to accept contributions in exchange for political favors, he proposed campaign finance reform measures during his first term. As of November 2009[update], Biden's net worth was $27,012. By November 2020[update], the Bidens were worth $9 million, largely due to sales of Biden's books and speaking fees after his vice presidency.
The political writer Howard Fineman has written, "Biden is not an academic, he's not a theoretical thinker, he's a great street pol. He comes from a long line of working people in Scranton—auto salesmen, car dealers, people who know how to make a sale. He has that great Irish gift." Political columnist David S. Broder wrote that Biden has grown over time: "He responds to real people—that's been consistent throughout. And his ability to understand himself and deal with other politicians has gotten much much better." Journalist James Traub has written, "Biden is the kind of fundamentally happy person who can be as generous toward others as he is to himself."
In recent years, especially after the 2015 death of his elder son Beau, Biden has been discussed for his empathetic nature and ability to communicate about grief.CNN wrote in 2020 that his presidential campaign aimed to make him "healer-in-chief", while the New York Times described his extensive history of being called upon to give eulogies.
Biden, Joseph R., Jr.; Helms, Jesse (April 1, 2000). Hague Convention on International Child Abduction: Applicable Law and Institutional Framework Within Certain Convention Countries Report to the Senate. Diane Publishing. ISBN0756722500.
^Biden held the chairmanship from January 3 to January 20, then was succeeded by Jesse Helms until June 6, and thereafter held the position until 2003
^ Biden admired McCain politically as well as personally. In May 2004, he had urged McCain to run as vice president with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, saying the cross-party ticket would help heal the "vicious rift" in U.S. politics.
^Like previous potential transition teams, such as that of unsuccessful candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, the Biden transition team remained eligible for government funding in accordance with the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010, and Biden had been eligible to receive classified intelligence briefings since his nomination in August. At least some government agencies had reportedly started their transition plans as early as November9, 2020, with airspace being restricted over his home, and "the Secret Service... using agents from its presidential protective detail for the president-elect and his family."
^Crowley, Michael. "HawkDown". The New Republic. Archived from the original on October 16, 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2021. Even before Obama announced his run for president, Biden was warning that Afghanistan, not Iraq, was the 'central front' in the war against Al Qaeda, requiring a major U.S. commitment. 'Whatever it takes, we should do it,' Biden said in February 2002.
^Hayes, Dianne (2012). "Looking The Other Way?". Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.
^Elaine Grant (April 5, 2011). "Federal Effort Targets Sexual Assaults At Colleges". National Public Radio NPR. Archived from the original on April 5, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2019. BIDEN: Look, guys, no matter what a girl does, no matter how she's dressed, no matter how much she's had to drink, it's never, never, never, never, never OK to touch her without her consent.
^Ashe Schow (April 4, 2019). "Biden Reaps the #MeToo Whirlwind". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on April 5, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2019. While speaking to students at the University of New Hampshire in 2011, then-Vice President Joe Biden told men in the audience that 'no matter what a girl does, no matter how she's dressed, no matter how much she's had to drink—it's never, never, never, never, never OK to touch her without her consent.'
^In March 2016 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, former ambassador to Ukraine John E. Herbst said, "By late fall of 2015, the EU and the United States joined the chorus of those seeking Mr. Shokin's removal" and that Joe Biden "spoke publicly about this before and during his December visit to Kyiv." During the same hearing, assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland said, "We have pegged our next $1billion loan guarantee, first and foremost, to having a rebooting of the reform coalition so that we know who we are working with, but secondarily, to ensuring that the prosecutor general's office gets cleaned up.""Ukrainian Reforms Two Years After the Maidan Revolution and the Russian Invasion"(PDF). U.S. Government Publishing Office. March 15, 2016. Archived(PDF) from the original on November 19, 2019. Retrieved November 14, 2020.