In Depth

2020 US election: what kind of president would Joe Biden make?

Obama’s former vice president is front runner to take on Donald Trump

Joe Biden has extended his lead in the race to become the Democratic presidential candidate who takes on Donald Trump in November’s election.

The former vice-president won four of the six states up for grabs this week in the latest round of primaries, beating rival Bernie Sanders in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho.

To secure the nomination, candidates need 1,991 delegates. Biden now has an estimated 820, with Sanders on 670.

The Democrats’ next big primary vote takes place next Tuesday, when a further 577 delegates can be won.

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Biden’s leadership style

The 77-year-old is widely viewed as being a warm, kind and relatable family man, and has vowed to restore “decency” to the White House.

In a 2017 speech at Maine’s Colby College, he told the audience that fostering personal relationships was the key to success in politics, leadership and life.

“Over the course of time, in public life, I found that it comes down to just being personal,” he said. “All politics, all international relations is personal.

“Caring about your colleague as they’re dealing with a sick parent, or their child has graduated from college, or the child just was in an accident. That’s the stuff that fosters real relationships, breeds trust, allows you to get things done in a complex world.”

A study last year by researchers at Minnesota’s College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University found that “leaders with Biden’s personality profile are likely to exhibit an interpersonal leadership style, characterised by flexibility, compromise, and an emphasis on teamwork”.

Biden’s eight years serving as Barack Obama’s VP means he can lay claim to much of that administration’s legacy, including the Affordable Care Act, the economic stimulus package and financial industry reform, says the BBC.

His close friendship with Obama - who he refers to as his “brother” - is also a factor in Biden’s overwhelming support from African-American voters.

But he hasn’t been afraid to step out from Obama’s shadow on occasion. In 2012, the then VP voiced his unequivocal support for same-sex marriage before the president had done so, in comments that were seen as undercutting Obama.

Biden has also triggered controversy with his physical style, frequently embracing people on the campaign trail. In recent months, two women have publicly accused Biden of being overly familiar with them.

Lucy Flores has claimed that he kissed her on the back of her head at a 2014 campaign event, while Amy Lappos says Biden touched her face with both hands and rubbed noses with her in 2009, according to USA Today.

Responding to the allegations in a statement released in December, Biden said: “In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once - never - did I believe I acted inappropriately.”

Biden’s policies

Economy and taxes

Biden supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 (£11.60) per hour, introducing paid sick leave to care for family members, and offering two years of free college education.

He would raise corporate taxes and increase existing taxes on upper-income Americans, increasing the tax rate for those in the top earnings bracket to 39.6%. He also proposes putting a 28% cap on the value of tax breaks for wealthy taxpayers, says Politico.

Criminal justice and immigration

Biden wants to ban capital punishment and the death penalty, get rid of private prisons, and abandon mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offences, says his official website.

The presidential hopeful would keep criminal immigration penalties for people who cross the border without documentation, but resoundingly backs citizenship for non-citizen immigrants brought to the US as children.

He would raise the US refugee admissions cap from the current 18,000 to 125,000.

He is happy to let each of the US states decide their laws on marijuana legalisation on an individual basis and backs the automatic scrapping of previous cannabis convictions.


The former VP has proposed a climate crisis plan that would go “well beyond” Obama’s climate goals. Biden would end fossil fuel subsidies and ban new oil and gas permits for public lands. He would also re-enter the Paris climate accord, after Trump pulled the US out of the agreement.

The Democrat’s other plans include giving the green light to develop nuclear power technologies in the effort to fight climate change; ending offshore drilling for oil and gas; and taxing companies based on their carbon emissions. He also advocates paying farmers to introduce climate-friendly practices, and expanding farm workers’ rights.

Gun control

Gun control is a major issue in the US, as was proved when Biden got into an argument with a worker at a construction plant in Detroit this week.

The worker accused Biden of “actively trying to end our Second Amendment right”, to which the wannabe president responded: “You’re full of shit.”

Biden insists he supports the Second Amendment, but is in favour of universal background checks and a national firearms register, and supports a ban on assault weapons.

Healthcare and abortion

Biden is less progressive than his rival Sanders when it comes to healthcare - another key issue for many Democrats.

Biden opposes Medicare for All, a single government-run plan, but advocates making a government plan available for anyone who needs or wants it.

His healthcare policy includes a “public option” that would allow people too buy into a government plan. The move would cost the US $750bn (£580bn) over ten years, and would be paid for by a rise in income tax for wealth Americans, CNN reports.

On abortion, Biden supports some limits during the third trimester, except where the health of the pregnant woman is in danger.


Biden would boost defence spending and is against a blanket withdrawal of all US troops from any overseas locations.


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