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Joe Biden, the former vice-president under Barack Obama, hasn’t formally announced whether he will launch a third run for the White House, despite repeatedly teasing the possibility.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Did Joe Biden accidentally reveal his plans to run for the White House? Or was it just another slip of the tongue by the former vice-president with a reputation for veering off script?

In a keynote speech at a dinner for the Delaware Democratic Party, Mr. Biden boasted Saturday that he has “the most progressive record of anybody running.” The only problem is that Mr. Biden hasn’t announced whether he will launch a third run for the White House, despite repeatedly teasing the possibility.

He quickly corrected himself, clarifying that he meant to say “anybody who would run,” then adding “I didn’t mean it” while a cheering crowd in his home state nearly drowned him out.

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Although Mr. Biden has been known to go off script, his remark is likely to be viewed as a Washington-style gaffe – a case of accidentally telling the truth.

During the rest of his speech, he sounded very much like a candidate-in-waiting. He repeatedly attacked President Donald Trump, accusing him of stoking division and anger, and bemoaned that the ascendant “new left” of his own party has criticized him for being cordial toward Republicans.

“The only thing strong enough to tear America apart is America itself and we’ve seen its start,” he said.

Mr. Biden accused Mr. Trump of backing away from United States’ role as a leader on the world stage and abandoning its allies. He said it’s no coincidence that “fake news” – one of Trump’s favourite labels – “has become the phrase of choice for every despot terrorizing his people.”

“We’re literally in a battle for the soul of America,” he said.

More than a dozen Democrats have already launched formal 2020 presidential campaigns. After former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke’s entered the race last week, Mr. Biden, who is his party’s best-known and best-connected presidential prospect, is the last major contender to remain on the sidelines.

But that didn’t stop the friendly home-state crowd from reveling in the idea that will jump in.

“I told him recently I have one campaign left in me,” said Sonia Schorr Sloan, a fundraiser and longtime Biden adviser.

Delaware Governor John Carney said Mr. Biden “doesn’t just look like he’s back. He looks like he’s ready for a fight.”

Just minutes before Mr. Biden’s slip of the tongue, though, Mr. Carney raised the possibility of a Biden campaign with a bit more delicacy.

“I am not up here to break any news tonight,” Mr. Carney told the crowd. Then he added: “In my humble opinion, we have never needed Joe Biden more than we need him right now.”

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