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Compared to Past Presidents, Biden Is Not That Different

    2021-1-18

    When you consider his background, Joe Biden is not unique among past presidents. But perhaps that is why he won the election in November. It was his third try.

    Biden first ran for president in 1988, looking to become the Democratic party’s nominee at the end of Ronald Reagan’s two terms in office. He did not get the nomination.

    He then ran again in 2008, as the Democrats looked for a candidate to go up against the Republicans after George W. Bush’s two terms in office.

    FILE - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden delivers a televised address to the nation on December 14, 2020, after the U.S. Electoral College formally confirmed his victory in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)
    FILE - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden delivers a televised address to the nation on December 14, 2020, after the U.S. Electoral College formally confirmed his victory in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

    During the primaries, he did not get enough support. Barack Obama eventually became the nominee and chose Biden as his running mate in the race against John McCain.

    The Obama-Biden team won the election, and Biden became Vice President for eight years.

    He chose not to run for president at the end of Obama’s term. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the candidates at the end of 2016.

    In 2019, Biden announced his plans to run for the Democratic nomination for a third time. This time, he won, and faced off against Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

    When Biden earned enough electoral college votes, he became President-elect of the United States. While this officially happened on December 14, 2020, many news organizations had called the race for Biden days after the November 3 vote.

    Biden’s inauguration is January 20. He will take the oath of office at noon.

    When Biden repeats the oath with U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, he will join a very limited group of men to ever win the presidency.

    To be part of such a group is unique. But among presidents, Biden is only unique in a few areas.

    At 78, he will be the oldest man to take the oath of office. Donald Trump, at 70, had been the oldest. Twenty-five past presidents have been in their 50s.

    Biden will only be the second Catholic to take the office. John F. Kennedy was the first.

    Biden was born in Pennsylvania. But he started his political career in Delaware and is the first president to come from that state.

    Only 19 states can claim a president. New York state has the most, with seven.

    On paper, that is about all of Biden’s presidential “uniqueness.”

    Biden has a law degree, which means he is not unique among presidents. Twenty-six other American presidents were lawyers.

    At 183 centimeters, Biden is not especially tall. In fact, eight presidents have been that height.

    Biden was formerly a member of congress, as a senator from Delaware. He served for 36 years. Twenty-five other congressmen became president.

    Biden, however, was a young senator. He won his election at just 29. He was the sixth youngest.

    Biden was Obama’s vice president. Fifteen presidents were once the VP.

    Perhaps some Americans might consider Biden “plain.” Some political experts think that is why he won the election against the more flamboyant Trump.

    Julie Pace is the Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press. In a November story published when it looked like Biden would become the president, she wrote about the campaign. She said Trump was not easily able to attack Biden.

    She said Biden was not the most compelling speaker with the best ideas. But he was a good candidate because he made a favorable impression on Americans as vice president.

    In fact, she wrote, for a plain candidate, what made Biden unique and earned him the most votes ever in a presidential election was that he was not Donald Trump.

    At one point, it was not even clear that Biden wanted to run for president. But Pace credited Trump with helping Biden win.

    “It was Trump who pulled him back into the arena, who gave his campaign a sense of purpose. It is Trump who helped him win,” she said.

    I’m Dan Friedell.

    Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English based on stories from the Associated Press and VOA. Bryan Lynn was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    unique- adj. used to say that something or someone is unlike anything or anyone else

    primary- n. an election in which members of the same political party run against each other for the chance to be in a larger and more important election

    oath- n. a formal and serious promise to tell the truth or to do something

    plain- adj. not unusual or special in any way

    flamboyant- adj. having a very noticeable quality that attracts a lot of attention

    compelling- adj. very interesting : able to capture and hold your attention

    impression- n. the effect or influence that something or someone has on a person's thoughts or feelings

    arena- n. involved in politics, government, etc.