Biden at rally casts himself as candidate who could unify the nation

Access to the comments Comments
By Mike Memoli  with NBC News Politics
Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks during his first campaign event as a candidate for US President at Teamsters Local 249 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 29, 2019.   -  Copyright  Saul Loeb AFP - Getty Images file

PHILADELPHIA — Joe Biden framed the 2020 presidential election as a choice between unity over division and cast himself as the candidate uniquely positioned to close the nation's political divide, promising Saturday "a different path."

Speaking in the heart of Philadelphia at a rally billed as a campaign kickoff, the former vice president doubled down on his view of the Democratic Party and the broader political climate in which more extreme voices often carry the day.

"Some say Democrats don't want to hear about unity. That they are angry — and the angrier you are — the better," Biden planned to say, according to prepared remarks. "Well, I don't believe it. I believe Democrats want to unify this nation. That's what we've always been about. Unity."

Biden's remarks once again appeared designed to look beyond the very crowded primary field toward the general election fight to come against President Trump.

"If the American people want a president to add to our division, to lead with a clenched fist, closed hand and a hard heart, to demonize the opponents and spew hatred -- they don't need me. They already have a President who does just that. I am running to offer our country - Democrats, Republicans and Independents - a different path," he will say.

Saturday's rally marked the end of a three-week campaign rollout for the former vice president in which he laid out the rationale for his candidacy and addressed voters in each of the four early-voting states, promising to work as hard as anyone to earn their support.

In the month ahead, though, Biden will turn toward readying himself for the next major test of his frontrunner status: the first primary debate. His public schedule is expected to be more limited, with several major policy speeches possible in addition to fundraising swings through New York, Texas and Florida.