Former Vice President Joe Biden has been floated as a potential front-runner for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 election. While Biden has sent mixed signals about whether he will mount a campaign, several progressive voices have voiced concern that his personal behavior toward women would be a liability amid the "Me Too" movement.
On Nov. 13, Biden stated during an interview that he was undecided about his political ambitions, leaving open the possibility for a presidential bid.
"I honest-to-god haven't made up my mind about that," Biden told Today. "I'm not closing the door. I've been around too long ... who knows what the situation is going to be in a year and a half? I don't have any idea."
Biden is currently touring the country to promote his memoir, in which he reflects on the death of his son, Beau Biden. Several people close to the former vice president disclosed that the book tour would serve as a test to see if he had the emotional wherewithal to mount a presidential campaign while still grieving the loss of his son. He decided against running in 2016, following his son's death.
"If someone emerges that the former VP believes can beat [President Donald Trump], I think he is at peace with that," a Democratic donor told Politico. "On the other hand, if that person doesn't exist or doesn't run, you can expect Joe Biden to take a very serious look."
On Nov. 15, a Politico/Morning Consult survey found that Biden would defeat Trump in a hypothetical matchup. Of registered voters, 46 percent said they would cast a ballot for Biden while 34 percent said they would support Trump if the election were held that day.
Meanwhile, several progressives have warned against a Biden campaign, asserting that his record would bend under scrutiny of the national movement against sexual harassment and assault. Several of Biden's critics have cited public instances of him kissing or placing his hands on women in public.
"Today, part of Biden's schtick is that he's Uncle Joe," wrote HuffPost's Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel in an editorial. "He's the jovial guy who can go into a bar and connect with anyone there ... A big part of his act was remarking on the attractiveness of women, young and old."
Terkel asserted that there were public documentation of Biden making women uncomfortable with his physical closeness, whispering and kisses.
"Many people found this behavior charming ... But it's clear some people were uncomfortable," Terkel concluded.
In February 2015, conservative columnist Byron York noted Biden's behavior toward women and asserted that it was inappropriate.
"Assume that all of Biden's gestures were entirely innocent, just Joe being Joe," York wrote in an opinion article for the Washington Examiner. "Still, in today's society, sexual harassment complaints have been lodged for less. Biden's behavior gives critics plenty of ammunition and puts supporters in a difficult position."
On Nov. 15, progressive columnist Erin Gloria Ryan called on Biden to not consider a run in 2020.
"While Joe Biden has been jokingly depicted as a kooky uncle or Obama's wacky sidekick ... he's also got a troubling history of acting weird in public around women who don't seem entirely on board," Ryan wrote in an editorial for the Daily Beast.
"As long as Democrats want to be taken seriously when they take a stand against Republicans who commit sexual misconduct, they have to demonstrate that they are equally uncomfortable or outraged when Democrats do it," Ryan added.
While Biden's critics believe that his past interactions with women would be problematic, the former vice president has also spearheaded efforts to address violence against women and sexual assault on college campuses.
On Nov. 13, Biden announced during a summit in New York City that he would partner with musician Lady Gaga to begin an initiative to establish health centers nationwide for victims of sexual abuse.
"We [want to] set up trauma centers where women can go to get the long-term help they need to deal with these crises ... We finally are recognizing the long-term impacts on the health of women and men who've been abused," Biden said, according to Entertainment Weekly. "It's the next great frontier I want to be part of."
Sources: Daily Beast, Entertainment Weekly, HuffPost, Politico (2), Today, Washington Examiner / Featured Image: LBJ Library/Flickr / Embedded Images: LBJ Library/Flickr, Amie Parnes/Facebook via New York