Sen. Joe Biden said Wednesday his failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination nearly 20 years ago has forced him to declare his candidacy clearly for 2008.
"I'm the only candidate who has straightforwardly said for a year that I'm running," the Delaware senator said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I haven't danced around. The point is, because I dropped out 20 years ago, there is the question: Is Biden serious? Is he really going to stay? The proof of the pudding is the eating."
Biden sought the Democratic nomination in 1988, but dropped from the race after it became known that he had lifted a portion of a speech from a British politician without attribution, a mistake he now attributes to arrogance and immaturity. He was 42 at the time.
As for running again, he said, "The Christmas after the last election we had a family meeting and my wife signed on, actually suggested it."
Making the circuit
Biden is in the middle of his first visit to Iowa in this election cycle, months after many other prospective candidates began their visits. He's visited New Hampshire twice this year.
He said he first started campaigning in traditionally Republican states, largely in the South.
"I wanted to make sure that the message would sell across the country," he said. "The reason was that I concluded if the message can't sell in those states, then I can't govern because the next president of the United States is going to have to be competitive in at least a dozen red states ... because everything I care about requires a consensus."
"You have to bring this country together, you can't lead the world with a divided country," Biden said. "That's why I waited this long to come to Iowa. I had to make sure I could run a national campaign."
Biden said he's working to make up for lost time by spending 15 days in Iowa during the August congressional recess. He said he plans to return to Iowa at least once a month while the Senate is in session.
Some activists who backed Biden in the 1988 campaign say they are willing consider him again, but agree that he needs to make it clear that he's in it for the long haul.
"If he hesitates he is lost," said former state Senate Democratic Leader Lowell Junkins.
Others have moved on.
Bill Wimmer, a lawyer and lobbyist for the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, now supports Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.
"The biggest problem Biden will have is the perception he's a Washington insider," Wimmer said.