Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. (born November 20, 1942) was Delware's longest-serving a U.S. Senator between 1973 and 2009. Biden served as Barack Obama's vice president for eight years, 2009-2017. Biden is currently running for president in the 2020 Democratic primary.
- 1 News and Controversies
- 1.1 Fifth-Place Finish in New Hampshire
- 1.2 Surprising Fourth-Place Finish in Iowa Underperformed Polling
- 1.3 Talk About Cutting Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid
- 1.4 Reputation for Verbal Gaffes
- 1.5 1970's Opposition of Forced Busing
- 1.6 Used Working Together with Segregationists as Example of Civility
- 1.7 Mishandling of Anita Hill Testimony and Subsequent Apology
- 1.8 Son Hunter Biden's Corporate Ties and Trump Impeachment Phone Call
- 2 Voting Record
- 3 Political Stances
- 4 Polling
- 5 Funding
- 6 Endorsements
- 7 Education
- 8 Career
- 9 Campaign Media
- 10 Related SourceWatch
- 11 References
News and Controversies
Fifth-Place Finish in New Hampshire
In the February 11, 2020 New Hampshire primary, Biden finished fifth, behind Sanders, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Warren. Neither Biden nor Warren broke 10% of the vote, short of the 15% threshold necessary to secure pledged delegates.
Surprising Fourth-Place Finish in Iowa Underperformed Polling
With 92% of the vote reporting, Biden remained in fourth place in the Iowa Caucuses at 15.91% of state delegate equivalents received. Outlets reported the disappointing fourth-place finish for his campaign, especially considering the fact he had led or nearly led in most Iowa polls immediately preceding the caucuses. In a following New Hampshire campaign event, Biden himself said "I'm not going to sugarcoat it... we took a gut punch in Iowa."
A New York Times article asserted that Biden's Iowa performance presented "a sharp challenge to the central argument of his campaign message: that he is the party’s strongest candidate to win a general election."
Talk About Cutting Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid
In a January 2020 CNN interview, Biden's competitor Bernie Sanders criticized his record on various issues, saying "Biden has been on the floor of the Senate talking about the need to cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid."
Ryan Grim noted, "Biden himself, at least on his campaign website, now supports making Social Security more generous, not less. But that’s at odds with decades of his own advocacy, a record that could become a major political liability among voters concerned Biden will finally get his wish to trim back Social Security checks."
Reputation for Verbal Gaffes
Throughout his 2020 campaign, Biden has repeatedly misspoken. As an August 2019 article in The Guardian pointed out, Biden "has cultivated a reputation of being gaffe-prone, often stumbling on his words– if not outright saying the wrong thing at the wrong time."
In the closing statement of his first debate appearance, Biden meant to say "Text 'Joe' to 30330" but ended up saying "Go to Joe 30330", which left viewers confused.
In the span of a single week in August 2019, Biden claimed "Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids", confused living former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May with deceased former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and repeatedly claimed he met with survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting as vice president, despite having left the White House in 2017.
A January 2020 NBC article marveled how, despite these routine verbal blunders, Biden has maintained his lead in national polling throughout the race.
1970's Opposition of Forced Busing
In their first appearance together in a Democratic debate, Kamala Harris criticized Biden of his stance against busing in the 1970's. In the debate, Harris told the former vice president, "You also worked ... to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me."
A Washington Post piece from the day following the debate laid out Biden's political history in opposition to forced busing.
Used Working Together with Segregationists as Example of Civility
In a June 2019 fundraiser, Biden "lamented the loss of civility in American politics... juxtaposing the partisan hostility of the current moment against the pragmatism displayed by the southern segregationists he worked with in his early career." In the speech, he praised "Democratic senators James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, both of whom steadfastly opposed racial integration and federal civil rights protections for African Americans".
Claiming "this is far from an isolated incident", a June 2019 National Review article laid out the history of Biden working together with segregationists, including Eastland, who "referred to African Americans as members of an 'inferior race' and used the racist term 'mongrelization'" and Talmadge, who "opposed the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education", claiming, "There aren’t enough troops in the whole United States to make the white people of this state send their children to school with colored children."
Biden's former Democratic primary rivals criticized him for his comments. Kamala Harris said he "doesn’t understand the history of our country and the dark history of our country", while Cory Booker said Biden "should immediately apologize for using segregationists to make a point about civility in the Senate." Biden responded to Booker's call for an apology by saying "Cory should apologize. He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period."
Mishandling of Anita Hill Testimony and Subsequent Apology
Biden oversaw a 1991 Senate hearing in which professor Anita Hill was questioned on her sexual harassment accusations against then-Supreme Court appointee Clarence Thomas.
Hill claimed Biden "called her and told her that she would testify first, but that after 'behind-the-scenes negotiations with Republicans'", Thomas testified first instead, and "'was able to offer a rebuttal before I had ever said a word.'"
As described by Vox, "the 14 all-white, all-male members of the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled [Hill] relentlessly, with several Republicans openly seeking to discredit her and even accusing her of 'erotomania'... In one instance, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter appeared to argue that inappropriate comments Thomas made to Hill about women’s “breasts” were commonplace, while in another Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) suggested that she made up allegations based on prose featured in the book The Exorcist."
The article also highlights criticisms of Biden's role during the testimony, saying "Hill supporters noted that Biden was the one overseeing all of the proceedings and could have used his authority to step in." Hill's former attorney commented, "'The point is that [Biden was] supposed to be neutral, but his questions to Anita Hill were as piercing as anyone’s.'"
At the beginning of his 2020 campaign, Biden called to apologize to Hill, expressing "his regret for what she endured". In a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Hill said "she was not convinced that [Biden] has taken full responsibility for his conduct at the hearings— or for the harm he caused other victims of sexual harassment and gender violence."
Son Hunter Biden's Corporate Ties and Trump Impeachment Phone Call
In April 2014, Joe Biden's son, R. Hunter Biden (known as Hunter), was welcomed to the board of Burisma Holdings, one of Ukraine's largest natural gas companies. According to Reuters, Hunter Biden was described as "a ceremonial figure" on the board, although he "took part in strategic conversations and shared his opinions and experience".
A September 2019 National Review piece presented a comprehensive timeline of Hunter Biden's corporate ties between Summer 2006 and July 2016.
Both Joe and Hunter Biden were mentioned in a July 2019 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. According a partial transcript, Trump said, "I would like you to do us a favor" and asked Zelenskiy to "look into" the Bidens' dealings in Ukraine.
A few days after a story about Trump's Ukraine call was published in The Washington Post on September 20, 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry.
For a more complete picture of Joe Biden's voting record, visit Vote Smart.
2002 Iraq War Vote
In 2002, Biden was among the 77 senators who authorized then-president George W. Bush's use of military force in Iraq. As described by The New York Times, "Biden, who by 2005 was calling that vote a mistake, is running for president in part on his foreign policy experience, emphasizing his commander-in-chief credentials at a moment of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran... Yet the Iraq war vote is part of the extensive record he cites, and he has struggled to accurately account for it on the campaign trail, repeatedly suggesting he opposed the war and Mr. Bush’s conduct from the beginning, claims that detailed fact checks have deemed wrong or misleading."
Biden has faced criticism for his Iraq war vote, especially from Bernie Sanders. Sanders's campaign affiliates have said Biden "isn’t getting away with rewriting history about how he helped lead America into the Iraq War" and "It is appalling that after 18 years Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history". 
Support of 1994 Crime Bill
In the summer of 2019, Biden received criticism from his primary opponents and President Donald Trump alike for his support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, known as the "1994 Crime Bill".
The bill contained many provisions. According to a 2019 legal analysis, it "effected sweeping change to law enforcement. It funded police departments, prisons, prevention programs, women’s shelters, and investigations into violence against women. It created sex-offender registries, a federal assault weapons ban, a domestic violence hotline, and a program to develop community police forces. It also expanded the list of federal death penalty offenses to include drive-by shootings, terrorism, carjackings, and civil-rights murders, and made gang membership an offense unto itself."
The 1994 Crime Bill also "encouraged states to adopt 'three-strikes' rules that mandated life sentences for repeat-offenders as well as 'truth in sentencing' laws that required inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. It also withdrew federal funding for inmates enrolling in higher education while incarcerated." 
Especially due to the "three-strikes" rule, the bill is seen as having contributed to mass incarceration. Bill Clinton, who signed the bill into law, claimed in 2015 that he regretted doing so, admitting he made the problem of mass incarceration worse. A June 2019 ACLU piece largely agreed with Clinton, saying, "It’s true that the federal government has limited jurisdiction over mass incarceration and that incarceration rates were already high by 1994. But it’s also true that following passage of the federal crime bill, incarceration rates continued to climb for an additional 14 years... The federal crime bill did not trigger mass incarceration, but it certainly encouraged mass incarceration to grow even further."
Support of Two Tuition-Free Years of Community College
Biden's campaign website focuses on affordable community college, saying "today in the United States there are an estimated 30 million quality jobs, with an average salary of $55,000, that don’t require a bachelor’s degree... community colleges offer affordable, quality ways for students to complete the first two years of a four-year degree. The campaign website describes college as a "gateway to the middle class" and outlines the plan to make two years of community college free using a "federal-state partnership, with the federal government covering 75% of the cost and states contributing the remaining obligation." Politico described Biden's plan for higher education as "a more moderate and modest approach than those that Biden’s more progressive opponents like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have proposed."
Support of Building on the ACA, Opposition to Medicare for All
In contrast to more progressive candidates who favor Medicare for All, Biden prefers an approach to healthcare which builds on the Affordable Care Act passed during Barack Obama's administration. Biden has repeatedly criticized the expensive price tag associated with Medicare for All.
In a September 2019 town hall, Biden said about Medicare for All, "guess what, it costs, minimum, $3.4 trillion per year. That’s twice the entire national budget, except for interest on the debt. Now tell me, especially in a recession, we’re going to raise your taxes, a middle-income person, as Bernie acknowledges— he’s honest about it— 5 percent and 4 percent in terms of your deductible, as well as 4 or 5 percent on your income tax. I don’t think you can sustain that."
A Washington Post fact check investigated these statements and reported:
"Biden’s staff acknowledges that he misspoke, repeatedly, in this passage:
- He meant to say the plan would double the federal budget, except for interest on the debt, not that it was twice the federal budget.
- He meant to say a tax on employers was like a deductible from your paycheck. (The line he used in the last primary debate was: 'It’s going to cost you in your pay— there will be a deductible in your paycheck').
- He meant to say the employer tax was 7.5 percent, not '5 percent and 4 percent.'"
The fact check also noted the difference between what Sanders and Biden emphasize in regard to paying for Medicare for All. Some of Sanders's proposed payment mechanisms for free, universal healthcare would require taxes to be raised, but he argues the tax would be far less expensive than the health care premiums required by the current U.S. system.
In contrast, Biden has repeatedly emphasized the increased taxes associated with Medicare for All without acknowledging the overall cost reduction Sanders and Warren present in their plans. The fact check called this approach by Biden "a classic political gambit to focus on only half the equation".
In a December 2019 NPR interview, Biden voiced his opposition to Medicare for All again, saying, "Do you think it's remotely possible to raise $3.5 trillion a year, more than every single penny we spend on every single thing in the federal government on a yearly basis, without raising taxes on the middle class?"
Unsure Whether Marijuana was a "Gateway Drug"
A Rolling Stone article published near the beginning of Biden's 2020 campaign laid out his history of opposing marijuana legalization. Drug legalization advocates quoted in the piece claimed Biden "holds the worst record on cannabis related policy of any individual currently running for the Democratic or Republican nomination" and claimed "Quite frankly, he seems to be a bit more out of step on this issue than President Trump".
As late as November 2019, Biden claimed before he could support marijuana legalization, more study was needed to determine whether or not it was a gateway drug. However, later that month, Biden "rolled back his stance that marijuana is a 'gateway drug'— and wrongly claimed that he had never said so in the first place."
As of January 2020, Biden's campaign website says about this issue: "Biden believes no one should be in jail because of cannabis use. As president, he will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions. And, he will support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes, leave decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states, and reschedule cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts."
According to data collected by FiveThirtyEight, Biden has consistently led in national polling average
In January 2020, Biden has averaged around 28.8% in national polling, leading Sanders, the nearest competitor, by eight points.
Early State Polling Averages
According to FiveThirtyEight, Biden's polling average of 21.0% in Iowa had him in second place on February 3, 2020, the day of the state's caucuses. Biden had been overtaken by Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg in late 2019 but had since passed them again. Biden and Sanders have each led in various early 2020 polls.
In New Hampshire, the second state to vote, Biden's polling average of 16.8% has him behind Sanders. Similar to Iowa, all four top contenders have held leads in New Hampshire, but most recent polling shows a close race between Biden and Sanders.
In Nevada and South Carolina, the following scheduled voting states, Biden has a larger lead over the other Democratic hopefuls. According to the most recent polling as of mid-January 2020, Biden leads Sanders by a few points in Nevada. South Carolina is a huge polling strength for Biden. As of mid-January, 2020, he held a 20+ point average lead over all other Democratic candidates.
High African-American Support
Throughout his 2019 campaign, Biden has enjoyed overwhelming African-American support compared to the other Democratic candidates. National polling in early January found 48% of this voting demographic supported Biden as a first choice, compared to 20% for Sanders and single digits for the remainder of the field. However, when African-American voters were asked for whom they would consider voting in a general election, Sanders led Biden slightly, 56% to 54%.
Biden trailed Sanders and Buttigieg in fourth-quarter fundraising, but edged out Warren. Biden raised $22.7 million, compared to Sanders's $34.5 million, Buttigieg's $24.7 million, and Warren's $21.2 million. The $22.7 million was the largest quarter of Biden's campaign thus far.
Unite the Country Super PAC
Biden showed opposition to receiving support from a Super PAC as late as April 2019, but in October of that year, his campaign changed its decision after lagging behind his Democratic rivals in available funds. By the end of October 2019, Biden supporters had formed a Super Pac called "Unite the County".
An October 2019 article in The Intercept detailed the corporate lobbying firms connected to Rasky and Schale. In the piece, Rasky is identified as the founder of Rasky Partners (formerly known as Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications), which "lists a number of successful client campaigns on its website, touting efforts to win congressional support for banks and defense contractors. Disclosures show that the firm was previously retained for communications services to the Education Finance Council, a lobby group for student loan companies."
The article also notes Schale's occupation as "a registered state lobbyist with Cardenas Partners, a Florida lobbying firm founded by former Jeb Bush adviser Al Cardenas. Schale’s current client list includes the Florida Hospital Association, JetBlue Airways, State Farm Insurance, Walt Disney Parks, AT&T, and the Associated Industries of Florida."
In addition to giving background information about these two lobbyists, the piece claims Bernard L. Schwartz, "a wealthy financier who has organized dinners with prominent centrist Democrats in order to prevent Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., from gaining the Democratic nomination, is reportedly in talks to fund the new Super PAC... In 2016 alone, Schwartz, through his foundation, gave $1 million to Third Way, a centrist group backed by corporate donors that has vigorously opposed Medicare for All and other ideas centered on tackling economic inequality."
Another Intercept article pointed out how the October launch of Unite the County could be a strategic boon to Biden, saying: "The PAC will be able to keep its donors under wraps until just three days before the February 3 Iowa caucus. Under Federal Election Commission rules, the Super PAC’s first disclosure is due on January 31. The schedule gives Biden more of a chance to escape scrutiny of who exactly is bundling for the PAC— a list likely to include more major industry players, far and away from the working-class voters for whom Biden has cast himself as a hero."
As of January 2020, Unite the Country had spent $3,211,436 in support of Biden's campaign.
K Street Fundraiser
A November 2019 Intercept article highlighted Biden's attendance at a high-dollar fundraiser with Sidley Austin, a "notorious K Street lobbying powerhouse" Whose "clients include Hikvision USA, a subsidiary of a partially state-owned Chinese manufacturer based in Hangzhou and one of the world’s largest suppliers of video surveillance products; Purdue Pharma; Vifor Pharma; MasterCard; and Huawei, among others."
As of September 2019:
- Total raised: $37,785,293.38
- Total spent: $28,797,665.57
- Cash on hand: $8,987,627.81
Source of Funds
From OpenSecrets as of September 2019: (percentages may not add up to 100)
|Contribution Size||Amount||Percentage of Total|
|Small individual contributions (< $200)||$13,207,653||35.09%|
|Morgan & Morgan||$424,090|
|Paul, Weiss et al||$152,500|
|Weitz & Luxenberg||$99,445|
|MGM Resorts International||$50,277|
|University of California||$49,840|
|Greenberg Traurig LLP||$43,210|
|Ballard Spahr LLP||$40, 338|
|Walt Disney Co||$39,533|
|Type||Amount||Percentage of total|
|Ejcr LLC Dba Advanced Aviation Team||$923,945|
|Media Buying & Analytics||$672,900|
|1500 Market Street||$379,037|
|Financial Innovations Inc||$321,979|
|Covington & Burling||$321,665|
|Blue Parasol Group||$268,326|
|Ng 1500 Market St||$203,405|
|Democratic Party of Nevada||$125,000|
|Democratic National Committee||$125,000|
As of mid-January 2020, Joe Biden led in endorsements by 130 points, according to FiveThirtyEight's "The 2020 Endorsement Primary" tracker. FiveThirtyEight ranks endorsements based on political office held. For example, former presidents and vice presidents are worth 10 points, governors are worth 8 points, U.S. senators are 6 points, and U.S. representatives are 3 points.
At least thirty U.S. representatives and five U.S. senators have endorsed Biden. In comparison, twelve U.S. representatives and one U.S. senator has endorsed Elizabeth Warren, six U.S. representatives and one U.S. senator has endorsed Bernie Sanders, and six U.S. representatives and no U.S. senators have endorsed Pete Buttigieg.
- 1965, B.A., University of Delaware
- 1968, J.D., Syracuse University
- 1973-2009: U.S. Senator from Delaware
- 2009-2017: Vice President of the United States
- Affordable Care Act
- Andrew Cuomo
- Barack Obama
- Bernard L. Schwartz
- Bernie Sanders
- Bill Clinton
- Clarence Thomas
- Donald Trump
- Elizabeth Warren
- Federal Election Commission
- George W. Bush
- The Guardian
- In These Times
- The Intercept
- Iraq war
- John Kerry
- Julianna Smoot
- Lobbying firms
- Margaret Thatcher
- Morgan Stanley
- Pete Buttigieg
- Purdue Pharma (page forthcoming)
- Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications
- Sidley Austin
- Social Security
- State Farm Insurance
- Super PAC
- Theresa May
- Third Way
- Walt Disney
- Wells Fargo
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