PHILADELPHIA — Joe Biden is getting in.

Two sources familiar with Biden’s preliminary plans said the former vice president will announce his candidacy for president Wednesday in Charlottesville, Va., the site of a violent clash in August 2017 between white supremacists and counterprotesters that claimed one life.

Biden would then fly to Pittsburgh for a campaign rally in the afternoon and then on to Philadelphia, where he will hold a rally at the Museum of Art, though the sources stressed that the plans have been shifting in recent days, and could change again.

The events, if they hold, would highlight one of the most divisive moments of President Donald Trump’s term — when he said there were “very fine people on both sides” of a neo-Nazi march and counterprotest — as well as Biden’s public persona and his political route to the White House.

Biden has called for a return to a more decent, civil politics, warning that the country’s character is under assault by Trump.

The Scranton, Pa.-born Biden, a longtime senator from Delaware, has also long presented himself as a liaison between Democrats and blue-collar, working-class voters, many of whom deserted the party in 2016 and helped flip critical states, including Pennsylvania, to Trump. Biden’s supporters argue that he is the party’s best option for winning back those voters and the states, such as Ohio and Wisconsin, likely to determine the 2020 outcome.

“Middle-class American folks have never let the country down,” Biden said in a video that played before a recent speech to the firefighters’ union in Washington, D.C. “You have been the centerpiece of everything I have done.”

A Biden spokesman declined to comment Friday.

Polling suggests that Biden would enter the race as a clear front-runner in a sprawling Democratic field, with many party insiders seeing him as their safest bet for victory. In particular, some see Biden as the strongest alternative to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. He has consistently placed second in public polls, but some establishment Democrats view Sanders as too liberal to win a national race.

Despite the former vice president’s advantages in name recognition and the residual benefits of eight years alongside President Barack Obama, Biden, at 76, will face questions about whether he is too old for the presidency, or if he fits with a changing Democratic Party increasingly reliant on a diverse coalition of activists.

His record amassed over nearly 50 years in public includes a number of instances that appear out of step with current Democratic thinking, including his support for a 1990s crime bill and his leadership of a hearing questioning Anita Hill about her sexual harassment claims against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

And some of the party’s most vocal elements have called for a generational change, particularly as a contrast to Trump, who is 72 and has built his appeal on nostalgia for the past.

Still, Biden has remained atop polling of the Democratic primary, a sign that supporters cite as evidence that the party electorate as a whole is more moderate than some of its most vocal elements.

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©2019 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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