Former Vice President Joe Biden announced his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election in a video shared Thursday, and soon afterward, details about his campaign hires began to emerge.
Much of Biden’s staff is expected to come from the Democratic establishment, considering the two terms he spent in the Obama White House. Others, however, such as the three female campaign aides announced Thursday, represent his team’s newer, more diverse faces, and an attempt to head off criticism that a white man should not be leading the Democratic Party.
Biden’s popularity as a 2020 candidate — even before his formal announcement — is due in large part to his Obama-Biden legacy. The new candidate and his team have hired “over a dozen” former President Barack Obama-era senior advisers to help with the campaign, CNBC reported Friday.
Scoop: Biden has hired over a dozen senior advisors from the Obama administration for his 2020 campaign. Many of them worked for team Clinton in ‘16 while others were key players in the 2018 congressional midterm elections. https://t.co/njKpc71Kr8
— Brian Schwartz (@schwartzbCNBC) April 19, 2019
But as a 76-year-old white man, he is the opposite of what Obama represented as a young, black candidate, which puts both the former president and his advisers in something of an awkward position with the party’s base.
So while he has received some support from Obama-era aides, he has also received support from people outside of his older circles. Biden has referred to himself as having “the most progressive record out of anybody … who could run [for president].” (RELATED: Biden: ‘Not One Single Whisper Of Scandal’ During Obama Administration)
Today’s Democratic Party, however, views Biden as somewhat of a dinosaur. He has been criticized as a contender for the 2020 nomination already, not only for inappropriate touching but for his past remarks about Obama that some have interpreted as racist, his support of the Iraq War, his actions as chairman of the Senate judiciary committee during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 and his assistance in passing former President Bill Clinton’s crime bill.
Biden is also running as one of the top three white, male candidates in a race with six — and possibly more to come — female candidates.
The leftist political action committee Justice Democrats, for example, released a statement Thursday saying, in part, “We can’t let a so-called ‘centrist’ like Joe Biden divide the Democratic Party and turn it into the party of ‘no, we can’t.'” (RELATED: Joe Biden Starts Campaign By Praising Antifa)
In other words, Biden needs all the help he can get if he wants to secure the 2020 Democratic nomination. To do so, he has sought three prominent women so far to help support his race.
Biden hired former top Obama White House adviser Anita Dunn as an adviser, The Hill reported Thursday. While Dunn did work for Obama, what makes her a particularly interesting choice for Biden is the fact that she “helped offer damage control advice” to disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of sexual harassment by over 80 women.
Dunn once accused Fox News of “undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House,” adding, “We don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”
Longtime Democratic strategist Joe Trippi said Dunn “would be near the top of the list” as “a smart, aggressive woman who has been at the top of strategic battles for president, gubernatorial and Senate races.”
Biden also hired CNN political commentator Symone Sanders, who served as national press secretary for independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign but quit the summer before elections took place.
Former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile said Sanders, “understands how to build a coalition and that women of color are the backbone of the Democratic Party,” The Washington Post reported.
Sanders told CNN host Brianna Keilar that “we don’t need white people leading the Democratic Party right now,” adding, “The Democratic Party is diverse, and it should be reflected as so in our leadership and throughout the staff at the highest levels from the vice chairs to the secretaries all the way down to the people working in the offices at the DNC.”
According to the Washington Post she was recruited by other 2020 candidates including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. But the 29-year-old Nebraskan native donated to South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign last month.
The new Biden team member also wrote on Instagram in February, “Question: What’s a good job for girls? Answer: President.”
Yes, Olympic medalist and five-time world champion ice skater Michelle Kwan was hired as the former vice president’s surrogate director, according to The Washington Post Thursday. Kwan also worked for 2016 candidate Clinton’s campaign and earlier for the U.S. Department of State.
“She comes in with a lot of relationships that maybe people on the Biden team don’t have. She knows celebrities. She’s known people at the State Department for a long time. She’s going to jell very well with the people over there,” said Adrienne Elrod, Democratic consultant and Clinton campaign director of strategic communication and surrogates
Kwan published a lengthy Instagram post Thursday in support of Biden and his stances on Obamacare, LGBTQ rights, climate change, the Violence Against Women Act and the NRA, writing:
He has worked side by side with [Barack Obama] to pass the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance to 20 million people and protected people with pre-existing conditions. He championed marriage equality and remains at the forefront of ensuring LGBTQ rights. He has tackled climate change and pollution to protect our environment. He has earned the respect of the international community and, through his leadership, he will strengthen our relationships with our allies and stand up to meet rising global challenges.
Most importantly, VP Biden has a reputation for getting things done — from implementing the most comprehensive and progressive investments in our nation’s infrastructure and clean energy industries, to writing the Violence Against Women Act, to taking on the the NRA and winning (twice!). He’s the candidate that I’m proud to support because he will do what it takes to restore the soul of this nation, rebuild the backbone of the country, and unify America.
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I’m thrilled that @joebiden announced that he’s running for President! I know that there is already a field of incredible democratic candidates and the 2020 election is so important we cannot lose sight of the big picture. Ultimately, I believe that the Vice President is the ideal candidate to unify our country with his experience, knowledge and track record of fighting for Americans. He has worked side by side with @barackobama to pass the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance to 20 million people and protected people with pre-existing conditions. He championed marriage equality and remains at the forefront of ensuring LGBTQ rights. He has tackled climate change and pollution to protect our environment. He has earned the respect of the international community and, through his leadership, he will strengthen our relationships with our allies and stand up to meet rising global challenges. Most importantly, VP Biden has a reputation for getting things done – from implementing the most comprehensive and progressive investments in our nation’s infrastructure and clean energy industries, to writing the Violence Against Women Act, to taking on the the NRA and winning (twice!). He’s the candidate that I’m proud to support because he will do what it takes to restore the soul of this nation, rebuild the backbone of the country, and unify America.
The campaign has added a number of other women to its list, including Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield, General Counsel Dana Remus, National Coalitions Director Venessa Cardenas, National Finance Director Katie Petrelius, Chief Analytics Officer Becca Siegel, Trip Director Ashley Williams, Deputy Communications Director for Messaging Kate Berner, Deputy Communications Director for Strategic Planning Meghan Hayes and Communications Director for Dr. Jill Biden Sherice Perry.
Other 2020 Democratic candidates snagged several Obama aides before Biden’s relatively late candidacy announcement.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s team hired Obama’s 2012 deputy campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon “and has enjoyed the support of Paul Tewes,” Obama’s campaign director in Iowa, Politco reports. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren hired Obama’s chief digital strategist in 2008 and 2012, Joe Rospars, and his 2008 Iowa caucus team’s political director, Emily Parcell. Additionally, a number of former top Obama administration officials have offered support to South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
An Obama spokesperson released a statement expressing the former president’s support for Biden, while notably not making an official endorsement. The statement said:
President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made. He relied on the Vice President’s knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today.
Biden claimed on CNN, “I asked President Obama not to endorse… whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.”
Hours after announcing his run for the White House in 2020, Biden told reporters in Delaware that he asked Obama not to endorse him because ‘whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits’ https://t.co/6BS8yYsRBA pic.twitter.com/UOjCjHnuI6
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) April 25, 2019