Joe Biden hit out at Donald Trump as he introduced senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, saying the president’s biggest skill is “whining” and slamming what the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said has been “no help” for his countrymen to combat the coronavirus.
“It’s no surprise, because whining is what Donald Trump does best, better than any president in ... history,” Mr Biden said, adding the president has a problem with “strong women”.
The former vice president was sharply critical of Mr Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed at least 164,500 people in the United States.
“This president says, ‘It’s not my fault. The governors should thank me more.’ As the old saying goes: give me a break,” Mr Biden said. “Donald Trump is on track ... to leave office with the worst jobs record of any president in modern history.”
Ms Harris said Mr Trump’s handling of the pandemic has “plunged” the country into the worst economic situation “since the Great Depression”.
“He inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden,” she said in a high school gym in Wilmington, Delaware. “And then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground.”
“America is crying out for leadership,” Ms Harris added. “Yet, we have a president who cares more about himself than those ... who elected him,” contending Mr Trump makes problems worse rather than trying to solve them.
The formal introduction of the California Democratic senator and former state attorney general came after Mr Biden twice pushed his decision back by a week.
He explained his process on Wednesday as one made with a “serious purpose of mind” before a “life-changing election”.
“The choice we make this November will decide the future of America for a ... long time. I had a great choice. But I have no doubt that I picked the right person to join me as the next vice president of the United States, and that’s senator Kamala Harris,” he said, then giving one clue about why he chose her over about a dozen other female candidates.
He said his campaign on Tuesday had its best single-day grassroots fundraising haul. ”And I think I know why,” he said, turning to glance towards Ms Harris.
“She’s a proven fighter for the backbone of this country. For the middle class. For those struggling to get into the middle class,” Mr Biden said. “She’s ready on day one.”
Amid some questions about her foreign policy knowledge, Mr Biden appeared to try countering those criticisms, noting she sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Her work on that panel has left her “in the middle of the most critical national security challenges that our country faces”, contending she is “well aware of all the ... threats that our country faces, and ready to tackle them”.
He also noted she is the first VP candidate of black and Asian descent, saying being the daughter of immigrants means she “knows” about the many challenges surrounding immigration
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Mr Biden announced Ms Harris as his running mate on Tuesday via text messages to supporters and a tweet.
Since, team Trump has been trying to paint Ms Harris as a central member of the progressive and most liberal part of the Democratic Party. They likely are trying to appeal to suburban and moderate voters, two voting blocs that have drifted from Mr Trump’s column during his chaotic term.
White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway earlier in the day told reporters that while Americans should appreciate Ms Harris being the first vice presidential candidate of black and Asian descent, as well as a female, they should not fear questioning her policies and those of Mr Biden.
“I think that this country, we can do two things,” Ms Conway added. “I think we can stand up and take a moment to applaud when history is made, and then take a moment to say why somebody who seems forward-looking would actually bring us backwards as a nation through her record, and her policies and her beliefs.
“But she’s part of a ticket that has that problem,” she added. “Senator Harris cannot cure the flaws and the inadequacies at the top of the ticket.”
For his part, the president, after contending on Tuesday evening that she frequently lies and is a part of the “radical left,” used a Wednesday morning tweet to suggest she has little cache with voters.
“.@KamalaHarris started strong in the Democrat Primaries, and finished weak, ultimately fleeing the race with almost zero support. That’s the kind of opponent everyone dreams of!” he wrote.
Polls completed before Mr Biden’s announcement give him a 7.3 percentage-point lead nationally, according to a RealClearPolitics average of several surveys. Averages of individual swing state polls conducted by the organisation give the former vice president at least a 5-point lead in key battlegrounds like Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Mr Biden also is competitive in Texas, Georgia and Ohio – states that long have been GOP presidential strongholds.
Several Republican strategists say if Mr Trump drops Florida, he likely has no path to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win a second term. NBC News recently released its first Electoral predictor map, which showed Mr Biden winning easily with well over 300 votes.
Mr Trump, who has sought to portray Mr Biden as a low-energy candidate with declining mental faculties, took a shot at his opponent at a White House listening session about the need for in-person education and schooling.
As one guest listed off the drawbacks of virtual learning, the president cut in: “So if you’re a presidential candidate and you’re sitting in a basement and you’re looking at a computer, that’s not a good thing?” he asked, half-jokingly.
Louisiana GOP Senator John Kennedy, appearing on Fox News just before the Democratic duo appeared, called Ms Harris “my colleague” and “very smart” and “very personable.” But he also dubbed her “very liberal,” saying she resembles progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but “without the bartending experience”.
Mr Biden said his team and Ms Harris were ready for such words from Mr Trump and his GOP allies, saying on Wednesday: “We know that more is coming.”
– Griffin Connolly contributed to this report.