Biden's bid for the center

(Bloomberg) --

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s entry into an already crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field makes him the automatic front-runner, even if he’s potentially less dominant than he was once expected to be.

Biden announced his candidacy this morning, positioning himself as the only contender who can defeat President Donald Trump with a centrist message that contrasts with high-profile rivals like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The 76-year-old ex-senator will frame the race as a battle for the soul of the nation. He will focus on an agenda of rebuilding and expanding America’s middle class and bridging the country’s partisan divide.

His campaign began months later than many of his backers anticipated, giving Democratic opponents a head start in building their teams, raising money and attracting supporters.

After several women came forward in March to say they’d felt uncomfortable with the way Biden had touched them, some Democrats began to more openly question whether he would be the right candidate to take on Trump.

With Trump already the oldest president to enter the White House, Biden’s age may also become a factor as younger candidates compete to champion a new activist generation of Democratic supporters.

Still, Biden’s allies see him as more appealing to working-class white voters in the Rust Belt, positioning him well in the general election to make up for weaknesses that cost Hillary Clinton the Electoral College vote in 2016.

One thing’s for sure, Biden's entry — to quote his own description of the 2010 enactment of Obamacare — is likely to be a “big f--ing deal.”

Biden's bid for the center

Global Headlines

First meeting | North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin today as he seeks a way out of his nuclear stalemate with Trump. Putin said after the talks in Russia's Vladivostok that he's ready to inform the U.S. president about the results of the meeting with Kim, telling reporters “there are no secrets.” While Moscow sent the invitation nearly a year ago, Kim only accepted after his second summit with Trump broke down in February. 

About face | Trump indicated in a phone call with Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar last week that the U.S. supported an assault on the country’s capital to depose its United Nations-backed government, Samer Khalil Al-Atrush, Jennifer Jacobs and Margaret Talev report. The revelation, which goes beyond a White House statement, represents a dramatic turn from the position stated days earlier by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who said the U.S. has “made clear” it opposes Haftar's offensive and wants it to stop.

Meddling goes wrong | The collapse of merger talks between Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank in Germany leaves Finance Minister Olaf Scholz with egg on his face and a problem on his hands. Scholz was instrumental in pushing the two lenders together and in the process heightened concerns about risks to the financial system. Now he doesn’t have a plan to fix them. Chancellor Angela Merkel steered clear of the whole endeavor and left her coalition partner to carry the can.

Investigatory quagmire | Trump is digging in for a protracted legal fight with congressional Democrats, as a Justice Department official and a former White House aide rebuffed subpoenas to appear on Capitol Hill. Addressing a separate request for Trump’s tax returns, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers that their “investigatory power is not unlimited.” The president's strategy could mire House investigations in legal argument as he turns toward his re-election bid.

  • Click here for more on Hillary Clinton's advice to Congress on how to follow up on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Golden friend | Venezuela’s gold sales to Turkey in exchange for food supplies to the crisis-wracked Latin American nation have drawn the attention of law enforcement in the U.S. and other nations, Michael Smith and Monte Reel report. One focus is whether the trade is being used to launder the proceeds of corruption and evade U.S. sanctions, linked to a shadowy Colombian businessman with ties to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

What to Watch

  • U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May faces demands from her Conservative Party lawmakers to give a clear timetable for her departure, even as they shied away from changing rules to allow an early attempt to oust her amid Brexit negotiations with the opposition Labour Party.
  • President Emmanuel Macron will set out a new plan to address the concerns of French voters this evening after more than two months of town hall debates across the country, a key element of his efforts to reengage with the public ahead of next month's EU elections.

And finally…A Georgian-American businessman is accusing Mueller of sensationalizing texts he sent about alleged salacious tapes involving Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow. Giorgi Rtskhiladze is demanding a retraction to a footnote in Mueller’s report about the text exchange with Trump’s then personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Rtskhiladze said in an interview that his messages had been misinterpreted to mean he’d seen and destroyed compromising tapes of Trump, when he was only conveying a rumor.

Biden's bid for the center

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