ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper Reports:
Joe Biden, the experienced and garrulous chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and six-term Delaware Democratic senator, will file paperwork on Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission to officially kick off his second presidential campaign. His Web site, JoeBiden.com, will be launched that day as well.
Biden, 64, is bypassing the step of first forming a presidential exploratory committee, a step taken by Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John McCain, R-Ariz. — and proceeding right to forming his campaign committee.
On the same day he files the paperwork for his candidacy, Biden will chair Senate hearings on Iraq featuring the scheduled testimony of former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, a Democrat, and Henry Kissinger, a Republican, which will no doubt serve to underline what Biden feels are his greatest strengths as a candidate in this turbulent era — foreign policy expertise and national security gravitas.
After speaking at a Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Feb. 3, as other presidential hopefuls will do, Biden will visit the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire on Monday, Feb. 5, and Tuesday, Feb. 6. He has approximately $3 million in his campaign coffers, and has hired to run his campaign Luis Navarro, former political director for the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
Biden, 64, enters a crowded field and risks lagging in the shadows of more buzzy candidates like Clinton and Obama, and those who have been laying down groundwork for a race for quite some time, such as former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.
Biden advisers argue that it remains early in the process, and that ultimately Democratic primary and caucus voters will consider Biden’s national security and international relations expertise invaluable.
"He may not be the flavor of the month right now," says Larry Rasky, who served as press secretary for Biden’s presidential run in 1987 and will serve as communications director in this campaign, "but he has a unique position in this race as the most respected voice in the party on national security and foreign relations issue."
Rasky argues that "voters go through a three-step process. First they get to know you, then they decide if they like you, then they decide if they’re going to vote for you. They really don’t commit until much later in the process."
During the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, for instance, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean "was the rising star," Lasky says, but ultimately Iowa and New Hampshire voters went for Kerry, "someone they thought could beat the Republicans and be a credible voice on national security issues. We have no reason to think that won’t happen again."
"They are a very astute and sophisticated group of voters," Rasky says. "They will not trivialize this election."
Biden aides argue that their candidate is the only one who has proposed an actual solution for the crisis in Iraq; he long ago introduced legislation to divide the country into three semi-autonomous regions — Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. Having voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq in October 2002, Biden told ABC News in December that if he knew then what he knows now, he would have voted differently.
Most recently, Biden has been working with Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., on a Senate resolution to declare President Bush’s proposed escalation of 21,500 US troops to Baghdad and Al-Anbar as "not in the national interest." That resolution was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday by a vote of 12-9, but looks as though it may have trouble passing with any significant bipartisan majority.
Biden occasionally is criticized by colleagues for his talkative nature. Asked if that might hinder his presidential hopes, Rasky said that "it’s a double-edged sword. It’s chatter for the grist in Washington, D.C., but when you walk into a living room in Cedar Rapids [Iowa], or spend time as he recently did with college students in Manchester [N.H.] and give them a 20-minute answer on Iraq or North Korea, they know the answers to these problems are not simple and they want to be respected. We have seen this repeatedly.
"Yes, he does sometimes talk more than is politically correct," Rasky adds, "but he always has something meaningful to say." Biden ran for president 20 years ago and saw his campaign consumed by scandal after senior aides to campaign rival Mike Dukakis, the former governor of Massachusetts, made sure reporters saw that Biden had plagiarized a campaign speech from Neil Kinnock, then the leader of the British Labour Party. Biden had mentioned Kinnock in previous deliveries of that speech, though not in the one distributed to the press.
Other similar revelations — news of "borrowing" from speeches by former Democratic icons Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, the story that he’d received a failing grade in Syracuse Law School course for plagiarizing a legal article, a C-SPAN video of him telling New Hampshire voters that he’d graduated in the "top half" of his law school class (actual standing: 76 out of 85) — combined to drive him from the race. The Delaware Supreme Court’s Board on Professional Responsibility later ruled that Biden had not violated any rules in the law school incident.
A Catholic, Biden is married with three children, one of whom — "Beau" Biden — was just elected attorney general of Delaware. His first wife and infant daughter were killed in a car crash shortly after he was elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 29.