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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Biden Starts Presidential Bid With His Foot in His Mouth

WASHINGTON -- In an era of meticulous political choreography, the kickoff for this presidential candidacy could hardly have gone worse.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware announced his candidacy Wednesday with the hope that he could turn his foreign policy expertise into a Democratic presidential nomination.

Instead, he spent the day struggling to explain his description of Senator Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat running for president, as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

The remark, published Wednesday in The New York Observer, left Biden's campaign struggling to survive its first hours and injected race more directly into the presidential contest.

Earlier, in a decidedly nonpresidential afternoon conference call with reporters that had been intended to announce his candidacy, Biden said he had been quoted accurately. He volunteered that he had called Obama to express regret that his remarks had been taken "out of context," and that Obama had assured him he had nothing to explain.

"Barack Obama is probably the most exciting candidate that the Democratic or Republican party has produced at least since I've been around," he said, adding: "Call Senator Obama. He knew what I meant by it. The idea was very straightforward and simple. This guy is something brand new that nobody has seen before."

Asked the comments, Obama said in an interview, "I didn't take it personally and I don't think he intended to offend." He added: "But the way he constructed the statement was probably a little unfortunate."

For Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it was an inauspicious beginning to his first presidential campaign since 1988, when he dropped out after acknowledging using without attribution portions of a speech from a British politician.