Joe Biden Says He's Running For 'United States Senate' While In South Carolina; Supporters Say It's Rhetorical

Joe Biden told a crowd of supporters in South Carolina on Monday that he is running for a "United States Senate" seat, drawing ridicule from critics who said the latest flub is evidence he is too out of touch to run for president.

Renewed calls for the former vice president to "drop out of the race" came after his podium-pounding plea to South Carolina voters to "give me a look." Biden, who earlier this year was considered the Democratic front-runner based on state and national polls, has since fallen behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former South Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in the first three primary contests.

Several campaign journalists and Biden supporters argued that his "Senate" remark Monday has been taken out of context. They say he is simply offering a rhetorical comparison to voters—between his decades as a U.S. senator versus the presidential candidate he is today.

Speaking to the South Carolina audience Monday, Biden said: "You're the ones who sent Barack Obama to the presidency, and I have a simple proposition here: I'm here to ask you for your help. Where I come from you don't get far unless you ask. I'm a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. Look me over. If you like what you see, help me out; if not, you can vote for the other Biden. Give me a look, though."

Biden used the South Carolina speech to directly appeal to the state's black voters, who backed Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. But Republicans and Democrats alike questioned the 77-year-old's mental acuity and expressed concern that his cognitive abilities may be declining. Biden represented Delaware as a U.S. senator from 1973 until he became Obama's vice president in January 2009.

Biden has repeatedly said South Carolina's February 29 primary will be the turnaround for his campaign after losing to other candidates in the Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada contests.

Critics on social media, ranging from Fox News hosts to progressive liberal activists, pounced on Biden's erroneous "United States Senate" proclamation. Activist and longtime Sanders campaign surrogate Shaun King remarked, "This is so sad. I honestly wish he would've retired & not subjected himself to the rigors of this campaign.... I honestly, earnestly, sincerely think this man is not well."

"It's honestly cruel to keep Biden out on the campaign trail. He's obviously struggling, and he is certainly not capable of being anything more than a figurehead president. His family & friends should be urging him to quit," tweeted Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who shared an article link pointing out Biden's mistake.

But Politico campaign reporter Natasha Korecki expressed frustration over the social media ridicule of Biden. She tweeted Monday: This is how @JoeBiden often closes out his events; he tells the crowd that some things about campaigning haven't changed since he first ran for Senate when he was 29, he goes on to recite his old pitch—including what's said in the video below—before circling back."

Newsweek contacted the Biden campaign for comment but did not hear back before publication.

On Twitter, the Trump War Room, a campaign arm of the president's 2020 re-election effort, joined several of the president's most ardent supporters in mocking Biden's remark about a Senate run.

"Oh Jeez..." tweeted the president's son Eric on Tuesday morning. "Joe Biden just announced his candidacy for...wait for it...US Senate!"

Meanwhile, supporters of the Sanders and Warren campaigns went so far as to describe Biden's confused remarks as an example of "elder abuse."

Joe Biden
Joe Biden participates in a “Moving America Forward: A Presidential Candidate Forum on Infrastructure, Jobs, and Building a Better America” at the University of Nevada on February 16. The former vice president told a crowd of supporters in South Carolina on Monday that he is running for a "United States Senate" seat. Alex Wong/Getty