DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Former Vice President Joe Biden is running for president. He has been deliberating this choice for months. But as of this morning, it is official. Biden posted this video on Twitter this morning.
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JOE BIDEN: The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy - everything that has made America America is at stake. That's why today I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.
GREENE: Well, there you have it. And NPR's Scott Detrow is covering the 2020 campaign. He joins us.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: So we're up to 20 Democrats right now. Is that what this does?
DETROW: It's a full 20 now in the field. And that means one very important thing - this is maximum capacity for those debates that begin in June. Only room for 20 people on the stage over the course of two nights...
GREENE: Oh, wow. So if there're more...
DETROW: So anyone else gets in the race, you have somebody who won't be there.
GREENE: ...Second debate stage somewhere.
DETROW: Yeah (laughter).
GREENE: All right. Well, let's turn to Joe Biden. I mean, this has been much anticipated. What do you make of his message in this video?
DETROW: You know, it's an interesting message. It sounds a lot more like a general election message than a primary message. But it gets at one of the main things that Biden is running on - this idea that there is, as he puts it, a battle for the soul of the nation and that President Trump is eroding American values and would do so permanently if he got a second term. The very first words of the video are - from Biden - are Charlottesville, Virginia. He's talking about the 2017 violent, white supremacist rallies there and how afterwards, President Trump said quote, "there were very fine people on both sides."
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BIDEN: With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.
DETROW: So he's going to be talking about this idea of America's soul, trying to unite Americans. The other big thing he'll be talking about is rebuilding the middle class.
GREENE: But, Scott, as much as he might want to sound like it's already a general election, he's already made that move, the reality is he is in a very crowded primary race with a lot of questions about whether he's the right candidate for this moment. So how does he fit into this crowded field?
DETROW: Absolutely. I think there's a lot of stuff to talk about, and we can walk through it. One of them - a key thing that you need to do to run for president, a key sign of support, is the fundraising question. He's way behind on that. This is a crowded field that has collectively raised more than $75 million at this point, and he's way behind. He'll get started today with a big fundraiser in Philadelphia with high-profile names from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. But that kind of gets at one of the ways that - the way that he has run his campaigns over the years aren't quite lined up with modern campaigning. He's planning on doing a lot of these big fundraisers with big donors. The fact is most of the campaigns running right now are getting most of their money from small, online donations. And there's a question about how Biden can compete in that world.
GREENE: And a lot of questions too about his long record and, certainly, some specific moments. I mean, he voted for gun legislation that the NRA said, in the '80s, was critical for protecting gun rights. I mean, he has acknowledged his role in the grilling of Anita Hill at those hearings. I mean, aren't these some of the very issues that are so important to progressives right now? And is that a vulnerability for him?
DETROW: Absolutely. I mean, just look at how much Kamala Harris, California senator, longtime attorney general of California, has had to reframe decisions that she made in the mid-2000s about her stance on crime policy. Joe Biden was writing big, tough-on-crime laws in the '80s, in the '90s. He's been around a long time. And a lot of the things that he looked at as big parts of his career really are out of sorts with the modern Democratic Party.
That also goes for the way that he has campaigned and conducted himself. I mean, we saw - even though Biden wasn't in the race, he was dealing with a lot of the negatives of being a candidate over the last few weeks and months. Most prominently, several women had stepped forward to say that ways he had touched them in the past have made them uncomfortable. And he didn't seem to really know how to respond to that, putting out several different statements. And then when he held an event talking about it, making light of it, making jokes about it, to the point where he had to do a follow-up press conference, kind of cleaning up that response.
GREENE: You mentioned he's behind other candidates on fundraising. I mean, he says that it was his plan all along to wait and jump in after others did. Is he going to regret that?
DETROW: Well, I think one of the key things we'll look for is how much money he raises in the first 24 hours. That's been a sign of support from candidates. And those numbers have gotten bigger and bigger. Bernie Sanders raised something like $6 million in the first day. If Biden's around there, then that shows that maybe there is the enthusiasm out there. After all, he has been leading the polls pretty consistently over the last few months, though the question is, is that just because people know who Joe Biden is? Or is it because there's a deep well of support for Joe Biden?
GREENE: OK. Again, the news we're covering this morning - former Vice President Joe Biden has officially launched his 2020 presidential campaign. He's the 20th Democrat to declare. NPR's Scott Detrow joining us this morning.
DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.