Joe Biden has formally clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, according to the Associated Press tally, officially setting off his general election campaign to unseat President Donald Trump.
The former vice president passed the milestone after collecting 1,993 delegates to the national convention, two more than the 1,991 needed to become the nominee. Mail-in ballots from Indiana, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, which released results Friday evening, pushed Biden over the top.
“It was an honor to compete alongside one of the most talented groups of candidates the Democratic Party has ever fielded — and I am proud to say that we are going into this general election a united party,” Biden said in a statement. “I am going to spend every day between now and November 3rd fighting to earn the votes of Americans all across this great country so that, together, we can win the battle for the soul of this nation, and make sure that as we rebuild our economy, everyone comes along.”
The delegate collection process was complicated by the decision of 15 states to postpone their primaries once the country went into a lockdown because of the coronavirus.
The general election campaign that begins now is likely to be especially vitriolic and hard-fought. The two men have already exchanged blows, with Trump deriding Biden as “sleepy Joe” and levelling accusations about his son’s business dealings in Ukraine. Biden has repeatedly said Trump has sullied the office of president by overseeing a corrupt administration and fuelling division among Americans.
Biden became the de facto nominee after his last serious challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, suspended his campaign in April. But in an unusual deal to keep peace within the party, the Biden campaign agreed to rule changes that allowed Sanders to continue to accrue delegates.
That — plus delayed primaries — prolonged the delegate counting into June.
Biden will be formally nominated at the Democratic National Convention in August. But the tradition-steeped convention will likely be scaled down with many more virtual events, given social distancing rules amid the pandemic.
At 77, Biden would be the oldest president ever elected. He becomes the Democratic Party’s nominee after serving eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president and more than 35 years as a senator from Delaware.
“This is a difficult time in America’s history,” Biden said in his statement. “And Donald Trump’s angry, divisive politics is no answer. The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us leadership that can bring us together.”
Biden, who failed in his previous two presidential primary bids in 1987 and 2008, outlasted more than two dozen Democratic candidates. He entered the race late, in April 2019, as the national front-runner, framing his campaign as an antidote to Trump.