Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
U.S. Senate office  Committee on Foreign Relations     Bills (Thomas)-106th-107th-108th
Citizens for Biden  FEC: Citizens for Biden-2002 (unofficial site)   August 11, 2003 Statement

Updated August 15, 2003 
During the 2002 cycle, Biden eschewed the positioning and politicking that other presidential prospects engaged in.  He did not establish a leadership PAC or make the trips to Iowa and New Hampshire or do the rounds at various state conventions and JJ dinners.  For the first six months of 2003 Biden continued to show few signs that he would launch a presidential campaign. 

Nonetheless, a visitor to Biden's Senate offices in Washington in Spring 2002 could hardly help but note, prominently displayed right next to the main door, the framed cover of the December 1999 issue of Delaware Today with the cover story, "Will Sen. Joe Biden run for president again?"  Paul Bedard writing "Washington Whispers" in the July 14, 2003 issue of U.S. News & World Report wrote, "A top Democratic official says that Delaware Sen. Joe Biden is at least 50-50 on joining 'and some days is 70-30.' A family member says it's closer to '80 percent' a go."  Also in July Jack O'Toole, a Charleston, South Carolina consultant impressed by Biden's "serious foreign policy credentials and no-BS persona," took the initiative of launching a Biden '04 website.  However on August 11, Biden issued a statement ruling out a presidential bid, saying that it would be "now too much of a long shot."

Democratic Leader on Foreign Policy
Sen. Joe Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972 at age 29.  In 1988 he ran a short-lived presidential campaign.  Biden's biography notes that in 1999 he became the youngest Senator ever to cast 10,000 votes.  Biden was re-elected to a sixth term in November 2002, defeating Republican Ray Clatworthy by 58 to 41 percent. 

Biden is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.  He served as chair from June 2001, when Sen. Jim Jeffords' switch to Independent gave Democrats control of the Senate, until the Democrats lost control of the Senate following the 2002 mid-term elections.  Upon becoming chairman, Biden singled out as an area of particular concern "the Administration's objectives for a national missile defense." Biden stated, "This one issue alone promises to be the most important national security debate and decision in our lifetime, and it will have profound consequences for our children and generations to come." 

The terrorist attacks of September 11 focused increased attention on international affairs; The New Republic's Michael Crowley referred to Biden as "the Democratic Party's de facto spokesman on the war against terrorism."  While Biden supported President Bush in the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan, he did not hesitate to criticize the president's policies when he found fault with them.  Thus in December 2001 he condemned Bush's decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty as "an incredibly dangerous one."  In February 2002 he took the administration to task on global warming, stating that, "The policy announced by the Bush Administration returns to the voluntary, unilateral approach that has failed to produce results."  On Afghanistan Biden has repeatedly stressed the need to "stay the course," insuring that a robust international security force remains in Afghanistan to help establish security.  "If Afghanistan fails, we will pay a heavy price," he warned in an April 2002 op-ed. 

In October 2002 Biden supported the resolution on Iraq.  In a prescient op-ed co-written with Sen. Chuck Hagel that appeared in the April 6, 2003 Washington Post, Biden warned, "We need to make the peace in Iraq the world's responsibility, not just our own."  Several months later when questions were raised about whether the Administration had hyped the case for war, the Biden said in a statement, "I still believe that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the war in Iraq was justified." 

Biden, who chaired the Judiciary Committee from 1987-95, is also ranking member of the Subcommittee on Crime, Corrections and Victims' Rights.  He sponsored the original Violence Against Women Act in 1994.

"Champion of the Rails"
Biden commutes to work each day on Amtrak and has been a strong supporter of the beleaguered rail service.  He is an original co-sponsor of the Amtrak Reauthorization Bill (National Defense Rail Act), S.104, introduced on January 7, 2003.   Introducing an earlier version of the bill with Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) on March 6, 2002, Biden stated, "For 30 years, I have witnessed Congress dangling a carrot in front of Amtrak's eyes, funding it just enough for it to limp along.  And I'll tell you, this has to stop.  Now is the time to commit politically and financially to a strong, safe, and efficient passenger rail system."   Biden has been particularly concerned with rail passenger security, and has, in the words of communications director Norm Kurz "worked furiously" to secure funding for Amtrak to upgrade its tunnels, hire more cops and bomb-sniffing dogs, build more fences, and add lighting to terminals. 

Amtrak president George Warrington presented Biden with a "Champion of the Rails" award in June 2001 and the American Passenger Rail Coalition (APRC), a national association of railroad equipment suppliers and rail businesses, presented him its "Rail Leadership Award" in March 2002.

Political Notes: Sen. Biden did visit Manchester, NH on March 25, 2001 at the invitation of state Sen. Lou  D'Allesandro.  He spoke at the Manchester Democratic committee's 4th annual St. Patrick's breakfast ($25/plate fundraiser), marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade, and visited the VA Hospital.

Strengths and Weaknesses
+ Biden's experience as chair of two of the most important Senate committees, Judiciary and Foreign Relations puts him in good stead.
+ If he runs, Biden will be able to transfer funds about $1 million in leftover funds from his 2002 re-election campaign to his presidential
 campaign committee [11CFR110.3(c)(4)]. 

- The Senate has generally not proven to be a good base from which to run a presidential campaign.
- Almost 30 years in the Senate could cause a loss of perspective.
- Does he talk too much?  Jake Tapper, in a June 29, 2001 piece for, described Biden as "sometimes candid, at times self-contradictory, often ponderous, clearly well informed, always long-winded."  Electronic Media, in its "first-ever survey of Washington's media inner circle naming the best and worst talk show guests" (March 11, 2002), named Biden as "most in love with the sound of their own voice."

2...   Chairing a Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, June 12, 2002.
1...   Rallying to Renew the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program, May 14, 2002.

Photo Caption: Sen. Joe Biden makes a point during a May 1, 2001 event in front of the Capitol.

Copyright © 2001, 2002  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action