(CNN)As his 2020 decision looms, former Vice President Joe Biden walked right up to the edge of declaring a presidential run Saturday night in front of an encouraging home state crowd.
“I get criticized by the new left. I have the most progressive record of anybody running for the United … anybody who would run,” Biden said, catching himself at a Delaware Democratic Party fundraising dinner. “I didn’t mean … Of anybody who would run! Because folks, we have to bring this country back together again.”
The line drew a raucous response from the Biden-friendly crowd.
Biden’s appearance in Delaware comes as he’s nearing a decision about a 2020 run. Biden has indicated to friends it’s “all but certain” he’ll run, and those familiar with discussions say an announcement could come as soon as April.
Back on his home turf in Delaware, Biden offered a possible preview of a presidential campaign message — arguing the country is engaged in a “battle for the soul of America.”
“We need a little more of the Delaware way. We got to make it more the American way and it’s lost. Our politics has become so mean, so petty, so vicious that we can’t govern ourselves, in many cases, even talk to one another. It can’t go on like this, folks,” he said.
In an apparent reference to the criticism he received after calling Vice President Mike Pence a “decent guy,” Biden said of politics in Delaware,
“We don’t treat the opposition as the enemy,” he said. “We might even say a nice word every once in a while about a Republican when they do something good.”
Biden also previewed how he could challenge President Donald Trump, criticizing his response to the clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, his approach to foreign leaders, and the recently released Republican budget.
“Trump has turned his back on the very people he promised to help. Remember how he was going to help the middle class, the cops, the firefighters, construction workers, auto workers, farmers, teachers, home health care workers … so many folks in places like Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin who have been whipsawed by changing world economy and left behind draconian policies of this administration,” Biden said.
“Everybody knows who he is. We’ve got to be clear who we are, who we are. We’ve got to understand that we Democrats, we choose hope over fear. We choose unity over division and we choose truth over lies,” Biden later added. “We have to stop walking around with our heads down like woe is me, we’re in such trouble. Damnit! There’s no other country in the world that’s come close to our capacity. None! It’s time to get up! Get off our backs, remember who the hell we are. This is the United States of America, there is nothing beyond our capacity.”
Throughout the evening, Biden received words of encouragement from the friendly home state crowd. As he took the stage to speak, Biden was met with chants of “Run, Joe, Run!”
“I’m confident than 598 days from now, we will together be … celebrating a new president,” Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said. “Folks, I am praying for that man, and I am excited to hear from him just a few minutes from now. I am confident that is our Vice President Joe Biden!”
“He doesn’t just look like he’s back. He looks like he’s ready for a fight,” Delaware Gov. John Carney, said. “In my humble opinion, we have never needed Joe Biden more than we need him right now.”