Joe Biden has formally won the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Donald Trump in November’s presidential election.
The former vice president declared on Friday that he had won the 1,991 delegates needed to secure the nomination after primaries and caucuses in 42 states.
A surge of mail ballots carried Mr Biden over the threshold, as voters in primaries held on Tuesday in seven states and the District of Columbia chose to shun the polling booth in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m going to spend every day fighting to earn your vote so that, together, we can win the battle for the soul of this nation,” the 77-year-old tweeted, as he announced the victory.
The achievement was a formality after Mr Biden became the presumptive nominee when his main rival, Bernie Sanders, quit the race in April.
“It was an honour 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,” Mr Biden wrote in an article.
At one point, the field had more than 20 candidates, with contenders dropping out as their chances faded. Mr Biden had a slow start and recorded his first win in South Carolina at the end of February.
After that, some other candidates viewed as centrist rivals to Mr Biden, including Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, dropped out of the race and endorsed Mr Biden ahead of Super Tuesday votes on 3 March, when the highest number of delegates were up for grabs and Mr Biden won key contests.
It then became a two-horse race with the Vermont senator Mr Sanders, who was seen as a progressive candidate challenging incumbent Democrats.
While Mr Sanders – whose enthusiastic supporters viewed a far greater threat to Mr Trump – was a front-runner after early races, Mr Biden carried his Super Tuesday momentum into subsequent contests and increased his lead.
Mr Sanders quit the race upon seeing no path to the nomination as the coronavirus outbreak made campaigning and outreach difficult, calling his rival a “very decent man who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward”.
Amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards several women, Mr Biden has promised to choose a woman as his running mate, with several black candidates likely in the running.
Mr Biden has been viewed by many critics as a representative of the Democratic status quo, which reigned over many of the tensions and inequalities galvanised by Mr Trump in the 2016 election.
Mr Trump has already sought to weaponise criticisms amassed during Mr Biden’s long life in politics, granting him the epithet ”Sleepy Joe” and seeking to embroil him in largely unfounded conspiracies involving his son’s former employer in Ukraine, and Barack Obama.
But with the nation currently in turmoil after the death of George Floyd in police custody, Mr Biden has stepped up his attacks on the president, accused of hiding in a White House bunker as he demands military enforcement, and has shown far more willingness to engage with the anti-racism protesters filling the streets.
Declaring his formal victory, Mr Biden appeared to address the calls for urgent change echoing across the country, striking a tone almost reminiscent of his democratic socialist rival, Mr Sanders.
“Today, I’m once again asking every American who feels knocked down, counted out, and left behind, to join our campaign,” Mr Biden said.
“Because we aren’t just building the movement that will defeat Donald Trump, we are building the movement that will transform our nation.
“I truly believe that when we stand together, finally, as One America, we will rise stronger than before. This is the United States of America. There is nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.”
While Mr Trump has not yet addressed the formal victory, he shared footage of Mr Biden giving a rambling half-apology to seven women accusing him of behaving inappropriately, dubbing it “crazy!”.
Additional reporting by agencies
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