Joe Biden says his family are encouraging him to launch White House bid

Former US vice president Joe Biden has said his family, including his grandchildren, are encouraging him to launch a White House bid.

"There's a consensus," Mr Biden told an excited crowd during an appearance at the University of Delaware.

"The most important people in my life want me to run."

The veteran campaigner who served as Barack Obama's vice-president did not explicitly say he was running.

In fact, the 76-year-old lifelong politician conceded he may not be popular enough to win over the Democratic Party of 2020.

Yet roughly 10 months before the first primary votes are cast, Mr Biden sent an unmistakable message to prospective rivals and voters alike that the already-crowded Democratic field is far from set.

Should he run, he would instantly become a front-runner, the best-known option for primary voters and perhaps the best-respected by elected officials and donors, who in many cases have a decades-long relationship with the longtime Democratic leader.

Mr Biden's potential rivals had little to say publicly about his latest comments on potentially joining the field, but in private, their camps conceded that he would be a political force who could scramble the evolving field.

Mr Biden could erode Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' popularity with working-class voters in the Midwest, California Senator Kamala Harris' standing with African-American voters in South Carolina and New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg's claim to the political centre.

"Uncle Joe is absolutely beloved within the Democratic Party and for good reason," said Zac Petkanas, an aide to former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"However, this isn't a popularity contest. Not only is he going to have to prove he's got fresh, bold ideas, but that he's tough enough to stand up to (Donald) Trump."

While he would be the oldest US president ever elected, toughness has never been an issue for Mr Biden, a native of working-class Pennsylvania, who suggested last year that he would "beat the hell" out of President Donald Trump for his comments about women if the two were in high school.

For all the respect I have for him, I don't know if he's the right thing for the Democratic Party right now.

It is unclear, however, if Mr Biden's profile, politics and policies are in line with today's liberal base, a relatively small slice of the electorate that holds outsized sway in presidential primary elections.

Mr Biden would stand out as an old white man just months after Democratic voters sent the most diverse class to Congress in history.

He would also be viewed as an establishment-minded moderate unwilling to wholly embrace litmus test issues like free universal health care, free college and the so-called Green New Deal.

"He is the biggest, best-known candidate in the race," said veteran Democratic strategist Gary Pearce.

"Personally, I have mixed feelings.

"For all the respect I have for him, I don't know if he's the right thing for the Democratic Party right now."

Still, Trump allies have long considered Mr Biden among the most formidable possible general election opponents given his working-class appeal.

Despite more than four decades in Washington, most of it as a Delaware senator, he has long played up his upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Mr Biden also has far more international experience than his would-be Democratic opponents and the president.

At a global security conference in Germany this month, he told an international audience that a US leader "stands up to the aggression of dictators".

Yet he has struggled to develop a strong base of political support in two previous presidential runs.

-Press Association

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