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Who is Joe Biden? A bio of the Democratic presidential candidate

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman June 11, 2019

Editor's note: This story is part of PolitiFact’s ongoing coverage of the 2020 campaign; these reports will be updated as the campaign continues. For more candidate profiles and fact-checking, go to

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in his third bid for the presidency, has the longest political resume of anyone in the Democratic field.

Biden served seven terms in the U.S. Senate. After giving up his second bid for president in 2008, he was tapped by Barack Obama to serve as vice president, overseeing a $787 billion economic stimulus package. He dropped out of the 1988 presidential race amid allegations of plagiarising a political speech.

Biden was born into a working class family in Scranton, Pa. He was first elected to represent Delaware in the U.S. Senate in 1972 at the age of 29. Weeks after he won, his wife Neilia and 1-year-old daughter Naomi were killed when their car was hit by a tractor trailer. Their sons Hunter and Beau were injured but survived. Biden was sworn into office at the hospital where his family was treated. His son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, and the following year Biden decided not to run for president.

Biden has depicted his own record as that of a liberal in the Senate. A review of several databases that grade lawmakers based on ideology shows that Biden was more in the middle of the pack. He showed a willingness to buck the left wing of his party and cross the partisan aisle.

Progressives have criticized many of his past stances, including his 2002 vote to authorize the use of military force against Iraq and crime bills that contributed to the prison population.

As Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Biden in 1991 oversaw Anita Hill’s testimony during

Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearing, when she had accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Biden was criticized for the harsh questioning she faced. In  2019 he said, "I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to give her the kind of hearing she deserved."

Biden has said his proudest legislative achievement in the Senate was drafting the Violence Against Women Act which passed in 1994.

Name: Joe Biden

Current occupation: Candidate for president

Party: Democratic Party

Federal offices: Elected to U.S. Senate in 1972 and re-elected in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002, and again in 2008; Vice President (2009-2017)

Key votes: Authorize military force in Iraq, 2002; Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988; Brady background check bill 1993; Violence Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994; Violence Against Women Act, 1994; Closing Gun Show Loophole act of 1999; Secure Fence Act, 2006

State and local offices: New Castle County Council 1970-72

Private sector work: Worked at law firms in the late 1960s and as a public defender; former Adjunct Professor, Widener University School of Law; former Presidential Practice Professor at the Penn Biden Center; former co-chair of the Biden Foundation, a nonprofit that suspended operations when Biden announced in April 2019

Military: No service

Books authored: Promises to Keep, 2007; Promise Me, Dad: A year of hope, hardship and purpose, 2017

Education: B.A. in history and political science, University of Delaware, Newark, 1965, and Syracuse (N.Y.) University College of Law 1968

Birth date: Nov. 20, 1942

Personal life: Jill; four Children:  Hunter, Ashley, Naomi (deceased), Beau(deceased)

Religion: Catholic

Top issues: Protecting the Affordable Care Act, income inequality, workers’ rights, opposing Trump

Endorsements: Democratic senators: Chris Coons of Delaware, Tom Carper of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Doug Jones of Alabama; Democratic Reps. Tom Suozzi of New York and Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware; former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch

Miscellaneous: At the end of his vice presidency, Biden said he commuted over 2 million miles on Amtrak between his Wilmington, Delaware, home and Washington D.C.

Other coverage: PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter; Center for Public Integrity, 9 Things to Know about Joe Biden, 2019; Politico, Joe Biden in Winter, 2014; New Yorker, Biden’s Brief, 2008; The Atlantic, The Salesman, 2010

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Who is Joe Biden? A bio of the Democratic presidential candidate