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Our view: Advice for Biden: Hit the ground running

Herald editorial board

Thirteen months ago, Joe Biden came to Grand Forks to speak on behalf of U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who was beginning what turned out to be an unsuccessful re-election campaign.

A few days later, we used this space to wonder: "Joe Biden for president?"

That was hardly a novel prediction. Talk of Biden, the vice president for eight years under President Obama, making a presidential run had been circulating for months, if not years.

He is expected to make an official announcement today.

He comes with baggage. At 76, Biden is considered old for a presidential contender — although President Trump will turn 73 in June.

Biden also has been embroiled in controversy as several women say he touched or kissed them. While those actions are wrong, it's important to note that no woman has claimed Biden's actions were sexual in nature, but instead were uncomfortable and inappropriate.

And he is accused by some on the left as being too moderate.

Also, Biden now will have to employ the famous energy level so often associated with the former VP and senator. When he spoke in Grand Forks, we didn't necessarily see it.

Here's what we wrote shortly after his appearance: "At times, (Biden's speech) sounded quite presidential; at other times, not so much. For those in the crowd hoping to catch a whiff of presidential interest deep within the speech, the hot-and-cold tone was perplexing. Often, Biden's address was quiet and reserved — almost a soliloquy — as he spoke about character and courage. His voice dropped to almost a whisper, causing some in attendance to lean in to better hear him speak.

"But about 25 minutes into the speech, Biden sprung to life and energized the partisan crowd with a sound clip that could be the basis for a TV commercial."

That great sound byte?

"There's an awful lot of people out there who somehow, and I don't know why, lost faith in what the American people can do. The middle class is not a number," he said. "It's a value set. It's about being able to own your own home and not having to rent it. It's about being able to send your kid to a park or playground and know they'll come home safely. It's about being able to send them to a local school where if they do well and they want to go beyond school, they can get to college. ... It's about being able to take care of parents who are in need, and hoping your children will never have to take care of you. That's middle class. That's who we are. That's what built this country."

Biden is an enigma. He has stood on the sidelines while other Democrats garnered headlines and donations. His past presidential campaigns—in 1988 and 2008—were dismal failures. He has waffled on the idea of the presidency. In Grand Forks, he at times seemed sleepy.

Yet polls show he already leads a Democratic field that is 20 candidates deep.

Biden may be the answer for Democrats, but to be taken seriously, he'll have to ramp up his energy level, immediately change how he interacts with women and, most important, fully embrace the idea of running for president.