CINCINNATI — Former Vice President Joe Biden stopped by a Cincinnati barber shop Friday, but he wasn't there to get a haircut.
The outspoken Democrat shook hands, cracked jokes and talked about President Donald Trump the way a future presidential candidate might, even though he continued to play coy about whether he'll run in 2020.
Biden's visit to the Beyond Image barber shop in Cincinnati's Camp Washington neighborhood had the look and feel of a campaign stop because it was — he was in town stumping for Richard Cordray's run for governor. But all the questions Biden fielded were about his own plans and about the current occupant of the White House.
"I don't think he has any ideology other than aggrandizing power," Biden said of Trump. "It's not like he's liberal or conservative."
He said Trump's only goal is to unravel the legacy of President Barack Obama, with whom Biden served for eight years. He said Trump has undermined protections in the Affordable Care Act, stoked the flames of racial hatred and opened the door for Republicans to roll back Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
"I think he's been on a mission," Biden said.
Biden said he and Obama planned to stay quiet about Trump so the new administration would have time to settle in. Obama mostly has done so, but Biden began speaking out after Trump said there were "very fine people on both sides" in clashes between white nationalists and counter protesters in Charlottesville last year.
He said he's also disturbed by Trump's frequent description of the news media as the "enemy of the American people," especially after a man with a grudge against the Annapolis Capital Gazette shot and killed five journalists at the paper Thursday.
"It's dangerous, it's irrational and it's un-American," Biden said of Trump's rhetoric. "It's almost hard to believe that he says some of the things he says."
Biden has landed in hot water himself over the years for his rhetorical broadsides, including some recent ones directed at Trump. Earlier this year, he said during a speech that if he and Trump were in high school, he'd "take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him."
Trump responded in kind on Twitter, saying Biden would "go down fast and hard" if they ever came to blows.
The prospect of the two men running against one another in 2020 seemed unlikely just two years ago, when Biden was on his way out of office and Trump was on his way in.
Biden, however, has acknowledged he's thinking about a presidential run, and a recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found he was the choice of 32 percent of Democrats. Hillary Clinton was second at 18 percent and Bernie Sanders was third at 16 percent. A slew of younger, lesser-known Democrats were far behind.
Biden wouldn't bite when asked Friday if he was running, but he hinted he'll be in the fight whether he's on the ballot or not.
"This is a battle for the soul of America," Biden said. "We cannot afford to lose it."