Joe Biden is running.
In a pre-recorded video announcement released online early Thursday morning, Penn Presidential Professor of Practice and former Vice President Joe Biden officially declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential race, ending months of speculation about the 76-year-old’s political ambitions.
Biden expressed his vision to return the United States to what he said were its founding principles of equality and opportunity in the three-and-a-half minute video.
The catalyst for Biden's decision to run in 2020 was President Donald Trump's reaction to the white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Va. in August 2017, where Trump claimed there were "very fine people on both sides" of the rally and counter-protest.
"The President of the United States assigned 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 our nation was unlike any I’d ever seen in my lifetime."
Biden enters the primary as a significant player in the already-crowded Democratic field; he had been leading nationwide polls even before his announcement. In a RealClear Politics average of multiple primary polls, Biden has a lead of about six percentage points over his closest challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), with an average of 29.3% support.
Biden has strong ties to Penn and has made several high-profile visits to campus in recent years. In February 2017, Penn hired Biden to become a Presidential Professor of Practice, and a year later the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement opened in Washington, D.C.
In an email to the Penn community sent hours after Biden announced, Penn President Amy Gutmann said Biden would be taking an unpaid leave of absence from his work at the Penn Biden Center. Gutmann also maintained that the Penn Biden Center would still be “an integral component” of Penn’s work.
Experts said Biden’s relationship with the center allowed him to plan for a possible presidential run by keeping his advisors close to him, yet the future of the center and Biden’s role as a Penn professor is now uncertain. In the months before he announced, Penn refused to officially comment on his potential candidacy.
For months, Biden had toyed with a prospective run, teasing his candidacy and delivering campaign-like speeches across the country — all without announcing his decision. At an appearance at Penn in February, Biden avoided discussing his presidential ambitions but sharply critiqued President Donald Trump, while articulating a hopeful vision for America's future.
Biden received allegations of inappropriate touching in late March, when Nevada politician Lucy Flores accused him of smelling her hair and kissing her head during a campaign appearance in 2014.
Penn Political Science professors expressed doubt earlier this year about whether Biden would run and whether he would find success in the Democratic field, citing concerns over his age, his controversial decades-long record, and his history of indecision.
But now Biden has plunged into the race, joining 19 other prominent Democrats like Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), among others.
This is not Biden's first stab at the presidency — he ran in 1988 and 2008, but failed to garner significant support in either campaign and dropped out in a matter of months after announcing both times.
Leading the polls, Biden will reportedly kick off his campaign with a speech in Pittsburgh next week. And if early polls are any indication, then the 2020 general election could see 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump face off against Biden — a Penn grad versus a Penn professor.
University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy said that Penn had nothing additional to add to Gutmann's emailed statement regarding Biden's announcement.