Joe Biden was in a reflective mood when he kicked off the most important day of his decades-long political career. This is how Election Day played out.
Joe Biden was in a reflective mood when he kicked off the most important day of his decades-long political career. This is how Election Day played out.

How Biden’s Election Day unfolded

Joe Biden was in a reflective mood when he kicked off the most important day of his decades-long political career at a church service in his hometown of Delaware.

Accompanied by wife, Jill, and granddaughters Finnegan and Natalie, the 77-year-old made no comment to reporters as he entered the St Joseph on the Brandywine Church in Delaware on a beautiful autumn morning.

Later, Mr Biden took a private moment away from the watching media to visit the family graves of son Beau who died of brain cancer in 2015, and the final resting places of his first wife, Neilia, and infant daughter, Naomi, who were killed in a 1972 car crash.

It was certainly a contemplative and wistful Mr Biden who then travelled to Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in a last-minute grab for votes.

In Scranton, the Pennsylvania city where he lived until he was 10 before moving to Delaware, Mr Biden scribbled a message on the wall of the living room in his old family home: "From this house to the White House with the grace of God. Joe Biden 11-3-2020."

Mr Biden has often visited the home. In 2008, when he received international prominence as Barack Obama's running mate, he wrote on the wall of his childhood bedroom: "I am home. Joe Biden."

On this Election Day, Scranton locals were thrilled to have their favourite son back in the neighbourhood.

"He's right there," Mardan Daurilas, 19, said. "That's my future president!" Mr Biden shouted back: "It's good to be home!"

Mr Biden took a moment to speak to the house's owner, Anne Kearns, 85, who bought it from Mr Biden's grandfather. "I watch you all the time," she told him. "I'm so proud of you."

Mr Biden has run his campaign among familiar tropes - he is a "man of the people" in a way that Donald Trump, with his gold-plated Fifth Ave pad, could never claim to be, despite the fact that Mr Biden is the ultimate Washington insider, a man who has spent four decades as a moderate in the Senate and, later, as Barack Obama's wingman.

But 2020 has seen a major shift for the usually inoffensive Mr Biden.

He is not, for all intents and purposes, the loveable, goofy "grandfather" figure he has spent a career cultivating. But he is a shrewd and confident operator; a man who will embrace bipartisanship when is suits him and, moving - from a moderate perspective - with the wave of his party.

From within his own party, he read the room; he has attempted to harness the radical energy of his party's radical left wing via his climate change and infrastructure plans. It is a significant ideological shift, which he hoped would propel him to the White House.

As such, he set up a policy forum that teamed up differing party factions, notably John Kerry, the former secretary of state, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new face of the Democratic Party's radical left, on the climate group.

One thing Mr Biden has not been able to change, however, is his constant propensity to put his foot in it. Constantly.

During a stop in Philadelphia on Election Day, Mr Biden seemed to confuse his granddaughter with his late son.

Mr Biden, who overcame a childhood stutter, was introducing the daughter of his son Beau to supporters in the city in Pennsylvania when he called her "none other than my son Beau Biden".

He quickly corrected himself to say "this is my granddaughter Natalie," before realising he had wrapped his arm around Finnegan, before finally pulling over Natalie.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Biden's latest blunder was swiftly seized upon by the Trump campaign, who have repeatedly questioned his cognitive ability. "WATCH: Joe Biden mixes up his granddaughters," the Trump campaign posted on Twitter with an accompanying video of the incident.

Those close to Mr Biden have dismissed suggestions that he is in cognitive decline but there is an impression that he was not exposed to the full scrutiny of a regular campaign because of his COVID-19 precautions. Unlike Mr Trump, who campaigned at a punishing level, Mr Biden attracted scorn and repeated jibes over the fact that he was often absent, and that he "stayed in his basement". When he was campaigning, he rarely took many questions from the media.

As such, Kamala Harris has been at the forefront of the Democrat's campaign, reminding voters of the vast generational gap between the two. In fact, it was Ms Harris who made Mr Biden accountable for his past during the primaries. But she also occasionally found herself on the receiving end of one of Mr Biden's blunders.

 

 

During a Democratic debate last November Mr Biden attempted to talk up his support among black voters but ended up accidentally claiming he had the support of the only black woman elected to the Senate - a title that currently belongs to one of his opponents.

Biden was discussing marijuana legalisation and criminal justice reform when he sought to highlight how he has earned the support of former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, the first black female senator.

But Mr Biden mistakenly said he had the support of the "only" black woman elected to the Senate, prompting raucous laughter from Kamala Harris, a black woman elected to the Senate who, at the time, was running against him.

"I'm part of that Obama coalition. I come out of the black community in terms of my support, if you notice, I have more people supporting me in the black community that have vouched for me because they know who I am … The only African-American woman who's ever been elected to the United States Senate," Mr Biden said.

"No, No," Harris said. "That's not true. The other one is here!"

Mr Biden responded, "I said the first."

 

 

But Ms Harris would go on to become a weapon for Mr Biden, bridging the generational gap and as a woman with African-American and Indian heritage, the racial divide between old Biden voters and the new wave. While Mr Biden "stayed in his basement", Ms Harris has been front and centre. On Election Day, she made a final stop in Detroit to whip up votes, pleading with voters to "have faith" and, to vote.

"We vote to honour our ancestors … we vote because everything is at stake in this election, everything," Ms Harris said.

"And we vote because we know there may be powerful people trying to make it difficult because they know our power. They know when we vote, things change. They know when we vote, we win.

"Today we must vote like our lives depend on it. Because they do," she said. "We must vote like our democracy depends on it. Because it does. And we must vote like justice, equality, and opportunity are possible. Because they are."

- additional reporting The Times

 

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Originally published as How Biden's Election Day unfolded


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