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John Kerry endorses Joe Biden, saying US ‘desperately needs [him] right now’

John Kerry in 2018.
John Kerry in 2018. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Former secretary of state John F. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, endorsed Joe Biden for president Thursday, saying the former vice president is the leader the country “desperately needs right now.”

Citing his long friendship with Biden, Kerry said in a statement, “I’ve never before seen the world more in need of someone who on day one can begin the incredibly hard work of putting back together the world Donald Trump has smashed apart.”

In an interview with the Globe, Kerry elaborated that in 40 years of friendship, “I’ve seen his strength, seen his vision, seen him work with and make friends with critical allies around the world.”

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Seeing recent news coverage of Trump being ridiculed by world leaders underscored for Kerry that America’s standing in the world is damaged, “not just our politics,” Kerry said.

“We need someone who can absolutely beat Trump,” which Kerry is convinced Biden can do, he said. And then once he gets the job, Biden can bring to the table a set of relationships and experiences that can more quickly restore “America’s role of global leadership” than any other candidate.

Kerry is expected to catch up with Biden on Friday as he barnstorms through Iowa on his eight-day “No Malarkey” campaign bus tour, then join him in New Hampshire on Sunday. Kerry won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in 2004.

On the trail, after seeing a recent dip in Iowa polls, Biden has pointed to Kerry’s 2004 come-from-behind primary win in the state as a victory that Biden could potentially replicate.

“I remember at this time John Kerry was getting his rear end kicked . . . then he came back and he won,” Biden told an audience of more than 100 people at Iowa State University on Wednesday when a voter asked whether he could make up ground between him and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

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Speaking to reporters after a stop in New Hampton, Iowa, the next day, he called Kerry a good friend who, like himself, had important relationships with world leaders and with whom he had worked closely with on climate change issues.

“I feel good about John being along with me for the ride,” he said. “John is a guy who understands what is at stake.”

Kerry’s endorsement serves as a major vote of confidence in Biden from a respected party elder, though its unclear whether it will move any voters.

While polls show him as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, his candidacy has been dogged by rough debate performances and behind-the-scenes worries from party elites that the 77-year-old doesn’t have what it takes to beat Trump next November.

By backing Biden, Kerry is passing over his home-state senator Elizabeth Warren. Kerry served as Massachusetts senator for more than two decades before President Barack Obama appointed him secretary of state in 2013.

Noting that he strongly supported Warren in her previous campaigns, Kerry said that he admires the Cambridge Democrat.

“She’s very much in contention, and she’s a strong candidate,” Kerry said.

“Nothing negative about any of them,” Kerry said of what his endorsement means about the rest of the Democratic field. He is, however, more convinced of Biden’s ability to beat Trump than the others, and “that’s precisely why Trump is so focused on him.”

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Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist, said the endorsement made sense given the long relationship Biden and Kerry have, first as longtime colleagues in the Senate, where they served on some of the same committees, and then in the Obama administration.

She called Kerry’s backing “noteworthy,” in part because he is the most recent Democratic presidential nominee aside from Obama, who has not endorsed in the race.

“But ultimately, Joe Biden has to win this nomination on his own,” Marsh said.

Last year, Trump withdrew the United States from one of Kerry’s crowning accomplishments — the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — despite Kerry’s quiet but unsuccessful efforts to preserve it. This year, Trump also followed through on a 2017 pledge to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement on climate change, another signature accomplishment of Kerry’s.


Globe reporter Jazmine Ulloa contributed to this story. Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.