May 18 (UPI) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden promoted unity over division during his campaign kickoff Saturday in in the state where he was born -- Pennsylvania.
"I know there are times when only a bare-knuckle fight will do. I know we have to take on Republicans to do what's right without any help from them," Biden said to supporters at Eakins Oval in downtown Philadelphia. "That's what it took to pass the Affordable Care Act."
The speech at Eakins Oval in downtown Philadelphia culminated a three-week-long opening campaign tour that has given him a sizable lead over the other 22 Democratic contenders.
Biden deemphasized his policy issue differences with some of the more left-leaning candidates. In the past, some Democrats have criticized Biden for not embracing the fight against climate change.
Instead, he concentrated on issues that connect his party.
"Are we a nation that believes [in] ripping children from the arms of their parents at the border?" Biden said, in reference to children who get detained at the southern border after traveling from Central America.
He drew the largest cheers when criticizing that policy and other of Trump.
"If the American people want a president to add to our division, to lead with a clenched fist, closed hand and a hard heart, to demonize the opponents and spew hatred - they don't need me," Biden said. "They've got President Donald Trump. I am running to offer our country - Democrats, Republicans and independents - a different path."
Biden was referred to as "Pennsylvania's third senator" while representing adjacent Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years.
"Why do we begin this journey in this place, Philadelphia?" Biden asked a crowd of thousands of supporters. "This was the birthplace of our democracy."
It's also where he will base his campaign headquarters.
And Biden understands the importance of using his ties to the rust belt state to swing working-class voters back to the Democratic party. Then-candidate Donald Trump won Pennsylvania during the presidential election in 2016, making it the first time a Republican presidential candidate took the state since 1988.
Biden talked about getting tough to win back those votes from Republicans but also stressed the need to reach across the aisle on key policies to keep the voters satisfied.
"I know how to go toe-to-toe with the GOP," Biden said. "But it can't be that way on every issue."