Biden is in, but can he reinvent himself and win?

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCDC chief clarifies vaccine comments: 'There will be no nationwide mandate' Overnight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden urges local governments to stave off evictions MORE’s third run for the White House will test whether an old-school politician from another era can reinvent himself for modern times more than 30 years after he made his first bid for the White House.

Biden enters the race for the Democratic presidential nomination as the front-runner, the best-known and most beloved figure in a crowded contest that has exposed a party in search of a unifying identity.

He leads every national poll of potential Democratic primary voters, and he runs ahead of or just behind Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersAngst grips America's most liberal city Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure MORE (I-Vt.) in early state match-ups. 

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But Biden’s road to the Democratic nomination is beset by both strategic and ideological hurdles as he vies to lead a party that has moved to the left since he was last on the ballot in 2012. 

The contrasts are everywhere. 

Biden’s main rivals are building war chests with armies of small-dollar donors, while Biden’s first campaign event will be a high-dollar fundraiser at the home of a wealthy lobbyist.

While many of those he will run against are staking out positions central to the Democratic Party’s growing liberal base, Biden has spent weeks revisiting some of his more controversial, and conservative, positions in the past.

He has expressed remorse for the way he handled the Anita Hill hearings, and for a crime bill he backed in 1994 that led to disproportionately high rates of incarceration for young black men.

More recently, he acknowledged that “social norms have begun to change” after several women said he had made them uncomfortable in the course of showing affection or offering support.

Biden will pitch himself to Democratic voters desperate to end the Trump presidency as a steady, experienced hand with the best chance to beat the sitting president. 

His video announcement released Thursday morning set up the most direct challenge to President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE of any of the candidates who have announced so far. Over a montage of Martin Luther King Jr., suffragettes and American troops landing at Normandy, Biden said Trump would be viewed as “an aberrant moment in time.”

“The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America America is at stake,” Biden said.

His message sounded, in part, like an echo of Trump’s own pledge to make America great again. 

“America’s coming back like we used to be,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday afternoon, hours after launching his bid.

Biden is hoping to buck history. Sitting and former vice presidents have struggled to win the presidency in modern politics, in part because voters tire of one administration. 

Since World War II, only two vice presidents — Richard Nixon, eight years after he lost the presidency, and George H.W. Bush, succeeding Ronald Reagan — have won the presidency on their own.

Three others — Walter Mondale, Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreMcAuliffe calls on Youngkin to drop out of 'election integrity' rally Anything-but-bipartisan 1/6 commission will seal Pelosi's retirement. Here's why Kamala Harris's unprecedented challenge MORE and Hubert Humphrey — have won the Democratic nomination but lost to Republicans in the general election. Dan Quayle’s campaign in 2000 did not even make it to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Biden begins his bid in a strong position, albeit not as strong as Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote MORE did four years ago. But the front-runner’s crown sits precariously on his head, after he got a late start and staked out a more centrist role than his most significant rivals.

If Democratic voters see Biden as the course to a safe harbor, his best days may be ahead. If they opt to steer toward the future, his best day may be today.