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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, May 19, 2019 1:00 am

Biden looks to close divide

Believes country wants unity over continued anger

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – His party may be enraged by Donald Trump's presidency, but Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden insisted Saturday that Democrats will not defeat the Republican president if they pick an angry nominee.

Facing thousands of voters in his native Pennsylvania for the second time as a 2020 contender, the former vice president offered a call for bipartisan unity that seemed far more aimed at a general election audience than the fiery Democratic activists most active in the presidential primary process. He acknowledged, however, that some believe Democrats should nominate a candidate who can tap into their party's anti-Trump anger.

“That's what they are saying you have to do to win the Democratic nomination. Well, I don't believe it,” Biden declared. “I believe Democrats want to unify this nation. That's what the party's always been about. That's what it's always been about. Unity.”

Biden's moderate message highlights his chief advantage and chief liability in the early days of the nascent presidential contest, which has so far been defined by fierce resistance to Trump on the left and equally aggressive vitriol on the right.

Biden's centrist approach may help him win over independents, but it threatens to alienate liberals who favor a more aggressive approach in policy and personality to counter Trump's turbulent presidency.

“I want aggressive change. I'm not hearing that from him yet,” said 45-year-old Jennifer Moyer of Blandon, Pennsylvania, who attended Biden's rally and said she's 90% sold on his candidacy. “I don't want middle of the road.”

The event was the culmination of a three-week rollout that began and ended in Pennsylvania, home to Biden's campaign headquarters.

The 76-year-old native of working-class Scranton, Pennsylvania, has climbed to the front of the crowded primary field, in part by ignoring his Democratic rivals and focusing on his ability to compete with Trump head-to-head next year.

Biden is betting big that voters in the Midwest and beyond will ultimately embrace his optimistic appeal.