Joe Biden slips, hints at 2020 presidential run: 'I have the most progressive record of anyone running'

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses the International Association of Fire Fighters in Washington, March 12, 2019. PlayKevin Lamarque/Reuters
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As the political world continues to wait for Joe Biden to decide whether he will seek the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, the former vice president nearly revealed his plans Saturday night as he defended his record at a Delaware Democratic Party fundraising dinner.

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"I'm told I get criticized by the new left," Biden said, referring to claims that he would occupy a moderate lane should he join the presidential race. "I have the most progressive record for anybody running."

But as his home state audience erupted in cheers, the longtime Delaware senator quickly walked a piece of the comment back.

"I didn't mean it. I mean, of anyone who would run. Of anybody who would run," he said.

Though his view on policy may not be all that different from the potential 2020 rivals classified as left of Biden, the calls for consensus and civility that comprised much of his speech Saturday set him apart in an era of increasingly hostile political rhetoric.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden poses for a selfie after addressing the International Association of Fire Fighters in Washington, March 12, 2019. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Former Vice President Joe Biden poses for a selfie after addressing the International Association of Fire Fighters in Washington, March 12, 2019.

"We've got to get to know one another again," Biden said, describing what he called the "Delaware way," where, because the state is so small, personal relationships supersede political differences.

"You have to arrive at consensus," he continued. "Without consensus, nothing gets done period. Have to listen to the other guy, the other woman. Work with one another, respect one another no matter how badly you disagree."

I have the most progressive record for anybody running.

Biden held up as an example his relationship with the late Sen. John McCain, with whom he said he disagreed vehemently on political issues, but maintained a strong friendship because they each believed that the other wanted the best for the United States.

"Once you question another man or woman's motive you can never reach an agreement," said the former vice president. "I can tell you have a stupid idea about this that or the other… and we can still compromise."

Though some of his critiques, particularly about taking "the venom out" of politics, appeared to be particularly focused on President Donald Trump and Republicans, Biden -- a veteran of national campaigns -- is clearly keeping his finger on the pulse of his fellow Democratic hopefuls.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses the International Association of Fire Fighters in Washington, March 12, 2019. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses the International Association of Fire Fighters in Washington, March 12, 2019.

All eyes have been on Biden as he deliberates privately over whether to seek the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. Many of those close to him believe he will run.

Earlier this week, Biden was greeted with a warm reception at a conference for the International Association of Fire Fighters, where he encouraged the crowd to conserve their energy.

"I may need it in a few weeks," he quipped.

Multiple sources close to the former vice president have told ABC News that they believe he will launch a campaign, and in recent weeks, he has conferred with allies such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. -- who was left with the impression Biden would pursue the presidency, according to her office.

Prior to Saturday's dinner, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told reporters that Biden told him he was "all-but-certain he is going to run."

On Thursday, Biden met with another potential 2020 candidate, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. The pair discussed their respective future plans, according to a source close to Abrams.

ABC News' Molly Nagle contributed to this report.