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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

Joe Biden's verbal slip about campaign draws Democrats' cheers

In a speech, he says he has 'the most progressive record of anybody running'

Did Joe Biden accidentally reveal his plans to run for the White House? Or was it just another slip of the tongue by the former vice president with a reputation for veering off script?

In a keynote speech at a dinner for the Delaware Democratic Party, Mr Biden boasted on Saturday that he has "the most progressive record of anybody running". The only problem is that Mr Biden has not announced whether he will launch a third run for the White House, despite repeatedly teasing the possibility.

He quickly corrected himself, clarifying that he meant to say "anybody who would run", then adding "I didn't mean it", while a cheering crowd in his home state nearly drowned him out.

Although Mr Biden has been known to go off script, his remark is likely to be viewed as a Washington-style gaffe – a case of accidentally telling the truth.

During the rest of his speech he sounded very much like a candidate-in-waiting. He repeatedly attacked President Donald Trump, accusing him of stoking division and anger, and bemoaned that the ascendant "new left" of his own party has criticised him for being cordial toward Republicans.

"The only thing strong enough to tear America apart is America itself and we've seen its start," he said.

Mr Biden accused Mr Trump of backing away from America's role as a leader on the world stage and abandoning its allies. He said it's no coincidence that "fake news" – one of Trump's favorite labels – "has become the phrase of choice for every despot terrorising his people".

"We're literally in a battle for the soul of America," he said.

More than a dozen Democrats have already launched formal 2020 presidential campaigns. After former Texas Republican Beto O'Rourke's entered the race last week, Mr Biden, who is his party's best-known and best-connected presidential prospect, is the last major contender to remain on the sidelines.

But that did not stop the friendly home-state crowd from reveling in the idea that will jump in.

"I told him recently I have one campaign left in me," said Sonia Schorr Sloan, a fundraiser and longtime Biden adviser.

Delaware Gov John Carney said Mr Biden "doesn't just look like he's back. He looks like he's ready for a fight".

Just minutes before Mr Biden's slip of the tongue, though, Mr Carney raised the possibility of a Biden campaign with a bit more delicacy.

"I am not up here to break any news tonight," Mr Carney told the crowd. Then he added: "In my humble opinion, we have never needed Joe Biden more than we need him right now."

Updated: March 17, 2019 11:06 AM

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