13 Facts You Should Know About Joe Biden
Policy + Politics

13 Facts You Should Know About Joe Biden

REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Will he or won’t he? With Democratic frontrunner Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign struggling to gain traction in the face of her ongoing e-mail controversy, that’s the question Democrats and political pundits keep asking about Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden has spoken openly about how the death of his son Beau a few months ago has affected him and left him unsure if he has the emotional capacity to run.

“I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, No. 1, they know exactly why they would want to be president, and 2, they can look at the folks out there and say, ‘I promise you, you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy and my passion to do this,’” Biden told Stephen Colbert last week. “And I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there.”

Related: Joe Biden: The Looming Threat to a Republican Presidency

Biden has long been known for such straight talk — and, in some cases, for saying too much, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. In one of his more notable gaffes, Biden complimented Hilary Clinton in a way that could get brought up if he enters the race: “She’s easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America. Quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me.”

Although Americans know Biden as the honest if blooper-prone vice president, there are still some facts about him that have gotten lost in all the speculation about 2016.

  • When he was a child, Biden’s classmates teased him for stuttering when he spoke. He overcame his speech impediment by himself, reading long poems out loud in front of a mirror.
  • While Biden attended Syracuse University College of Law, he and his wife Neilia Hunter Biden purchased a puppy and named him “Senator.”
  • In his first ever Senate race in 1972, Biden beat Delaware’s best-known politician, a well-funded, three-term incumbent Republican. He was 29 at the time he won the election, too young to be in Congress, but he turned 30 before being sworn into office.

Related: Why Every Passing Day Makes It Harder for Biden — Or Any Latecomer — To Run

  • He’s endured many tragedies. His wife, Neilia, and his infant daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident while shopping for a Christmas tree in 1972. His two sons, Beau and Hunter, were in the car as well, but survived after suffering serious injuries.
  • Biden, who had been elected just before the tragic accident, took the Senate oath of office at his sons’ hospital bedsides. Committed to his sons, he commuted to Washington from Wilmington, Del. every day by train throughout his career in the Senate.
  • Biden remarried schoolteacher Jill Tracy Jacobs in June 1977 and has a daughter, Ashley, with her.
  • In 1988, Biden had to have brain surgery after being diagnosed with two life-threatening cranial aneurysms. Before surgery, the surgeon told him that he had a 35 to 50 percent chance of living a normal life afterwards.
  • Before becoming vice president, Biden was Delaware’s longest-serving senator, serving for six terms.
  • Like Donald Trump, Biden does not drink alcohol. He has said that alcoholism runs in his family.
  • Biden became the highest-ranking government official to endorse same-sex marriage in 2012 during an appearance on “Meet the Press.” Soon after, President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage as well.
  • If he does decide to run for president, this would be Biden’s third try. He ran in 1987, but withdrew after he was accused of failing to credit a British politician, Neil Kinnock, for remarks he made in a speech. He also ran in 2008.
  • A Catholic, Biden has said he finds comfort in the rosary beads he carries. "He has a rosary with him all the time and he uses it," a longtime friend told People earlier this year. "He'll never do it in front of people, though. Faith, family and character are what has enabled him to survive these incredible tragedies."