The former vice-president, an apostle of the bipartisan heart, has eluded his age once before to win an election and, at 76, could do so again

Caleb Boggs was a second world war hero who had never lost an election. The Republican senator for Delaware enjoyed a 30 -point lead in the polls against an unknown, untested Democrat who was just 29 years old. Yet he was outplayed, and outworked, and lost by 1 %. The David who slayed this Goliath was a good-looking lawyer with a cherish of fast cars. His name was Joe Biden.

The year was 1972 and Biden’s surprising win would induce him the second youngest senator in American record. A few weeks later, he abode the unimaginable : his wife, Neilia, and newborn daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car gate-crash. In a phone call that was recorded, President Richard Nixon told Biden:” She was there when you prevailed a great victory. You enjoyed it together, and now, I’m sure, she’ll be watching you from now on. Good luck to you .”

Nearly half a century later, Biden has again been touched by personal catastrophe- the death of his son, Beau, 46, from psyche cancer- and again stands on the brink of an election race in which his age is front and centre. Now a remarried parent and grandpa and former vice-president, he is expected to announce soon a third bid for the White House despite concerns that, at 76, if he triumphed, he would overtake Donald Trump as the oldest being ever elected US president.

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Joseph Biden and his first partner Neilia cut his 30 th birthday cake at a party in Wilmington. His son Hunter waits for the first part. Photograph: Bettmann/ Bettmann Archive
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” His busines began when he was often criticised as too young to run ,” said Jeff Wilser ,~ ATAGEND generator of The Book of Joe.” How cool would it be to bookend his profession by triumph another ballot where his age is an issue ?”

Age, nonetheless, is not the only question. With Michael Bloomberg and Sherrod Brown opting out of presidential proposals, Biden is seen as the flag-bearer for Democratic centrists at a few moments when the working party is tilting to the left.

He is a white man at a few moments when the party has a record number of women and candidates of colour. He is an evangelist for bipartisanship at a moment of polarisation. He is a foreign policy stalwart at a moment when expertise has fallen into disrepute. He is famously tactile with women at a moment when #MeToo has redrawn the border of personal space.

And yet, he might just pull it off.

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If the Charcoal Pit, a roadside diner in Wilmington, Delaware, was deciding the Democratic primary, it would already be play over. Biden is a regular customer and beloved person who never turns down a selfie solicit. His favourite meal is grassland cheesesteak with a $4.75 black and white milkshake( like Trump, he is a teetotaler ). Staff remember him showing off his new car, clustering with them late at night to talk about foreign policy and drawing President Obama for a meal.

Joseph Grabowski, 67, part of the restaurant management team, has known Biden most of his life.” One nighttime in the 90 s he came in when we were cleaning up and sat down with us for the purposes of an hour. He speaking about the Taliban, how they live, how they gobble, everything. He’s brilliant. I would like to see him give the presidency a shot. I think that was his son’s dying hope .”

Such beliefs are typical in Delaware, the second largest smallest regime in the union after Rhode Island, where” Amtrak welcomes you to Wilmington’s Joseph R Biden Jr Railroad Station and at least one ” Joe Biden scented candle “ can be seen. Its chose son, boosters say, has moved with sovereigns( and presidents and prime ministers) hitherto evidenced the common touch. The latter is often attributed to Delaware’s size, where retail politics is king, and his prior upbringing.

Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a hardscrabble metropoli known for two things: coal and The Office. When Ricky Gervais’s hit comedy sequence was looking for the US equivalent of the UK’s Slough as a symbol of dead-end ennui, it settled in Scranton. But Biden mused last year :” If “youre listening to” Barack, you’d ponder I climbed out of a coalmine with a lunch barrel from Scranton in my hand. It’s not true .” “His fathers” was ” a white-collar worker”, he lent, who propelled their own families to Delaware to work as a vehicle salesman when Biden was 10.

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Senator Joseph Biden addresses a Washington press conference on the Salt II arms control treaty in October 1979. Photograph: Charles Harrity/ AP

The young Biden had a stutter but, Wilser’s volume mentions, spent hours in front of a mirror, memorising and reciting poems as well as the following statement. Eventually he subdued the stutter and found that all the practising did him an accomplished public speaker.

Biden married Neilia Hunter in 1966; they had a son, Beau, in 1969, followed by another son, Hunter, and daughter Naomi. Having studied at Syracuse Law School, finishing 76 th in a class of 85, Biden laboured as a lawyer, connected the district committee and get known in Democratic politics in Delaware. Then came that longshot Senate race against Boggs in 1972.

Wilser scribbles in The Book of Joe:” The Democratic party kingpins knew they couldn’t beat Caleb Boggs. So they needed person expendable, a sacrificial lamb .” Biden himself drafts in his memoir, Promises to Keep :” The smart guys extending Delaware politics didn’t give me a snowman’s chance in August .”

It now seems hard to believe that Biden was the young, scrappy and hungry Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of his daytime, pounding wall street, harbouring coffee conferences and granting pronunciations as he duelled a seemingly unassailable incumbent. Mike Castle ,~ ATAGEND a former minister of Delaware, echoed :” I remember going to a house and picking up this brochure for Joe Biden. It was all these senators endorsing him. I was very impressed by that .”

Biden prevailed by little more than 3,000 votes . He would serve in the Senate for the next 36 years, commuting from Wilmington by improve and construct a honour for reaching across the aisle to Republicans such as John McCain. It was an approach determined by Delaware pragmatism. Castle, a Republican, said:” Delaware has been that way for some time now … We worked very hard as an administration to stimulate everyone feel comfy, whatever we were trying to do. That’s carried over to a lot of the grapples in Washington .”

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Biden, then the Senate judiciary committee chairman, chit-chats with Robert Bork on the first day of hearings to confirm him as a supreme court justice in 1987. Photograph: Terry Ashe/ The LIFE Images Collection/ Getty Images

But as Delaware departs, the nation does not necessarily be used in its current humor. In 2015, at a Capitol Hill ceremony unveiling a bust of former vice-president Dick Cheney, a cheery Biden said,” I actually like Dick Cheney”, and last week he praised Vice-President Mike Pence as “decent guy” but had to withdraw the remark after a reaction from the LGBT community.

Biden told an audience in January :” I spoke in the New York Times today that one of my problems is, if I ever run for president, I like Republican. OK, well, bless me Father, for I have sinned !” For some moderate voters, nonetheless, bridge-building might plead as the perfect remedy to the Trump era’s toxicity.

Leon Panetta ,~ ATAGEND a former excuse secretary who has known Biden since the 1980 s, said:” I just think that if our republic is ever going to get back to governing, as opposed to this partisan warfare we’ve been having in Washington, that it’s going to take a president who understands the benefits of bipartisanship and who likewise appreciates what it takes to govern the country. That’s a strength as far as I’m concerned , not a weakness .”

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Biden fell in love with Jill Jacobs , a educator, and remarried in 1977; the couple had a daughter, Ashley, in 1981. Contented at home, Biden’s busines in the Senate blossomed and he began a long tenure on the foreign relations committee.

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Senator Biden and his wife, Jill, are all smiles as they make their way through a army of wellwishers and photographers to take a train to Washington after announcing his candidacy for president of the United State in June 1987. Photograph: Bettmann/ Bettmann Archive

He flowed for chairperson but came unstuck in 1987 where reference is repeated the British politician Neil Kinnock but forgot to cite him (” he promoted Mr. Kinnock’s closing communication with words, gestures and lyrical Welsh syntax intact for his own closing addres at a debate at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 23- without crediting Mr. Kinnock ,” the New York Times reported ). The plagiarism accuse culminated Biden’s hopes. Michael Dukakis won the nomination.

The following year Biden suffered headaches and nausea and finally collapsed in a New York hotel room. He made in his autobiography that it felt like” lightning twinkling inside my thought, a powerful electric flow- and then a rend of tendernes like I’d never felt before .” Physicians procured a severed aneurysm and a clergyman was called in to administer last rites. But he lived this and a second aneurysm after surgery .

Biden chaired the 1991 confirmation hearings for the supreme court justice Clarence Thomas and was criticised for not doing enough to protect Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment. He has since apologised, but the incident still represents political luggage, as does Biden’s 2003 referendum authorising the intrusion of Iraq, though again he disavowed. He had the opportunity to face criticism from progressives over links to the financial services industry ,~ ATAGEND a major attendance in Delaware.

Biden’s second presidential bid, in 2008, exited no better than the first. Asked about challengers Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, he sacrificed a detailed reply and then could not resist a coda about Barack Obama :” I symbolize, you got the firstly mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I symbolize, that’s a storybook, boy .” It was one of myriad gaffes for which Biden has become infamous.

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Biden and his wife Jill join Barack and Michelle Obama after Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Chicago on 4 November 2008. Photograph: Morry Gash/ AP

But after Obama’s primary victory, he selected Biden as his running mate and the men’s close relationship is now the stuff of Twitter meme legend . Jake Sullivan ,~ ATAGEND who acted as Biden’s national security consultant and would like to see him run for president in 2020, said : “ It’s funny, they are different in some very interesting methods but their relationship was genuinely mutually admiring.

” They were friends. They had the capability of finishing each other’s convicts. It was professionally effective but too personal and close in a way that maybe beings would not have predicted when President Obama selected Vice-President Biden as his running mate in 2008.”

Sullivan, a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace thinktank in Washington, was also struck by Biden’s empathy.” One of the things that’s most notable about him is that he too cares passionately about helping people through their hard times, through their agony ,” he said.

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Tragedy came back to haunt Biden again in 2015 with the death of Beau ,~ ATAGEND an Iraq war veteran and us attorney general of Delaware who was tipped as a future state governor. The trauma was a factor in Biden’s decision not to run against Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary. Matthew Albright ,~ ATAGEND a reporter atthe News Journal in Wilmington, said:” It is difficult to overstate how big-hearted of a cope Beau’s death was in this state. The whole district basically ground to a halt and sorrowed for weeks. Beings were hardly reading anything else on our website. Joe stood outside of Beau’s funeral where hundreds of thousands of parties came in the visitation and shook everybody’s hand and talked with everybody and there are all these photos and videos of him trying to console people.

” He calls parties in Delaware apparently when they lose family and he talks in very real terms:’ I went through this, I know how this feels .’ He would hate for it to be said that Beau’s death added gravitas to him, but the space that he dealt with his regret in public, particularly in Delaware, was an enormously gripping thing to watch .”

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The Biden category attend the funeral of Joe’s son Beau at St Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic church in Wilmington, Delaware, on 6 June 2015. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/ AP

Biden, a Catholic, wears Beau’s rosary on his left wrist every day. He is arguably now more soulful as a public speaker than he has ever been. Panetta said:” It’s contributed his speeches not so much better a political rim as an emotional rim because he shares a lot of what he’s been through with his audiences .”

Few politicians have known such surge high-priceds or searing lows. The former Delaware senator Ted Kaufman, who was Biden’s chief of staff and replaced him in the Senate, has observed :” If you ask me, who is the luckiest being I have ever known? I said here today Joe Biden. If “youre asking me”, who is the unluckiest I have known? I said here today Joe Biden .”

Luck smiled on the young Biden against Caleb Boggs in 1972. Supporters contend that he can defy time’s arrow again to defeat Trump and begin healing a fractioned nation.

Biden’s volume about Beau’s death, Promise Me, Dad, starts with a quotation from the philosopher Immanuel Kant ,~ ATAGEND too long for a bumper sticker or yard mansion, but terse all the same:” Regulates for Happiness: something to do, an individual is adore, something to hope for .”

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