JUDY WOODRUFF: Will he or won't he? Months of anticipation and hesitation ended today, with latest Democrat to enter the race for the White House.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are in the battle for the soul of this nation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Setting up a direct clash with President Trump over American ideals and values, former Vice President Joe Biden officially entered the 2020 presidential race this morning in a video announcement, Biden lambasted President Trump for his response to the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter-protester was killed.
JOE BIDEN: He said there were, quote, some very fine people on both sides. Very fine people on both sides?
JUDY WOODRUFF: The 76-year-old Delaware Democrat laid out the choice American voters face.
JOE BIDEN: If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: With a long political career marked by highs and lows, Biden became one of the youngest-ever U.S. senators, elected at the age of 29 in 1972. But tragedy hit just weeks later when his wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident. Biden went on to serve 36 years in the Senate, forming fast friendships with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including former Arizona Senator John McCain.
JOE BIDEN: My name is Joe Biden. I'm a Democrat. And I love John McCain.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But now, Biden finds himself in a Democratic Party that has lately shifted left, favoring policies that counter many of Biden's past positions, positions like his integral role in the federal government's war on drugs in the 1980s and '90s that led to mass incarcerations, and his support for expanding gun sales in the 1980s.
JOE BIDEN: I haven't always been right. I know we haven't always gotten things right. But I’ve always tried.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The long-time centrist has since taken more progressive positions. But, Biden is also guaranteed to face criticism by liberals for his role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, when Attorney Anita Hill testified that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Lawmakers from both parties then eviscerated Hill's testimony. Recently, Biden has also faced allegations of inappropriately touching women and not respecting their personal space. Biden didn't apologize, but said he would do better. At times, gaffe-prone, this is Biden's third attempt at the presidency. His 1988 bid was marked by allegations of plagiarism. After a short 2008 presidential bid, Biden agreed to run as Barack Obama's vice presidential nominee. And, while Biden helped to win over the Obama coalition of black and Northern white voters that helped win the White House in 2008 and again in 2012, he faces now a serious challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and a host of rising, younger progressive Democrats. President Trump took note of Biden's announcement today and the bruising primary that awaits him. Mr. Trump tweeted "Welcome to the race, Sleepy Joe".
REPORTER: What are you feeling today?
JOE BIDEN: I feel great!
JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, Biden appeared ready for the fight. Leaving a pizza shop, a reporter asked Biden if he had a message for the rest of the world.
JOE BIDEN: America is coming back like it used to be, ethical, straight, telling the truth, moving in a way, supporting our allies, all those good things.