Why Biden’s First Run for President Failed | NYT News

Why Biden’s First Run for President Failed | NYT News


“The next president of the
United States, Joe Biden.” It’s June 9, 1987, and then-Senator
Joseph R. Biden Jr. has just entered the
presidential race. Look familiar? The 2020 race is Biden’s third
attempt at the Oval Office. He first ran for
president 32 years ago. For those who may
have forgotten or weren’t around in ’87, here’s what happened. Biden started off
as a strong contender. “Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr.
of Delaware.” But his campaign was marred
by some early blunders, like this one. “What law school did you
attend and where did you place in that class?” “And the other question is—” “I think I probably have
a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect.” And he exaggerated
his academic record in law school. “—went back to law school, and in fact ended up in the top half of my class.” And then there were moments
like this, repeated later during the campaign. “When I marched in
the civil rights movement, I marched with tens
of thousands of others to change attitudes.” But he never actually marched in the civil rights movement
at all. Ultimately, it was
accusations of plagiarism in his speeches “I did not know
that was a Robert Kennedy quote.
My mistake.” that forced him
to drop out of the race. “I made some mistakes.” After that, Biden stayed in the Senate, ran again in the 2008 race, became the
vice-presidential nominee, and then the vice president, laid low for a little while and now we’re here. “If I’m going to be able to
beat Donald Trump in 2020, it’s going to happen here.” And certain things,
including a handful of Biden’s vulnerabilities,
haven’t changed. He’s still leaning into
some of the core messages he highlighted during his
first presidential run often emphasizing his profile
over policy, promising to put the country
on the right path after what he sees as the ills of Republican administrations. Here he is in 1987. “I tell you today that
America is a nation at risk.” In 2007. “This president
is going to be judged, and his administration judged,
very harshly by history.” And in 2019. “We’re in the battle
for the soul of this nation.” But Biden has struggled
to project himself as a man in step
with the times. And parts of his
political history continue to haunt him, like his role in the questioning of
Anita Hill in 1991. “It is appropriate to
ask Professor Hill anything any member
wishes to ask her to plumb the depths of her credibility.” And more recently, it was his relationship
with personal space. “The boundaries of
protecting personal space have been reset
and I get it.” Throughout his more
than four-decade-long career in politics, Biden
has become known for his freewheeling
charm and authenticity. “I’ve been referred
to as ‘Middle-Class Joe.’ It’s not always
meant as a compliment.” But his candor has also
gotten him into some trouble. “I’ve done some dumb things and I’ll do dumb things again.” As the Democratic front-runner, Biden will be
under a microscope. The question is whether he
can harness the folksy appeal he’s become known
for without repeating the mistakes of the past.

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