Election 2020 Joe Biden

FILE - In this May 22, 2013 file photo, Newly commissioned officer Erin Talbot, left, poses for a photograph with Vice President Joe Biden during commencement for the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. As former Vice President Biden's camp scrambles to contain any political damage over his past behavior with women, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has some words of advice: Keep your distance. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

By THOMAS BEAUMONT and NICHOLAS RICCARDI Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday made light of his recent controversy about crossing physical boundaries with women, and he signaled in a resolute speech to union activists that’s he’s ready to run for president as a moderate Democrat in a party that has been drifting left.

Biden, 76, opened his speech to a conference of electrical workers joking that he had “permission” to hug the union leader who introduced him. He later repeated the quip about a boy he invited up on stage. The remarks won cheers from the overwhelmingly male audience, but angered some of the activist women Biden has sought to convince he “gets” their concerns about his famously touchy-feely, and some say dated, style.

During his speech at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers conference and afterward to reporters, Biden defended his focus on the “personal connection” in politics.

“I’m sorry I didn’t understand more. I’m not sorry for any of my intentions,” he told reporters. “I’m not sorry for anything I’ve ever done -- I’ve never been disrespectful, intentionally, to a man or a woman.”

Biden noted his lawyers had warned him to speak carefully about his political intentions but said he expected to “be standing before you all relatively soon.”

Biden said criticism of his bipartisan leanings was coming from the “far left” and reupped his appeal for compromise — a sometimes unpopular view in the Trump-era.

He bemoaned modern politics that’s “gotten so damn elitist.”

“The vast majority of the members of the Democratic party are still basically liberal to moderate Democrats in the traditional sense,” Biden said. As to where he falls on ideological lines, he said, “I’m an Obama-Biden Democrat, man. And I’m proud of it.” Biden added that the controversy “is going to have to change somewhat how I campaign.”

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