Joe Biden spent a hot August day at his lakefront Delaware home watching hatred on display in Charlottesville, Va., where torch-wielding white supremacists had marched through town. A counter-protester advocating racial equality was killed when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd.

When President Donald Trump blamed the violence in 2017 on “both sides,” the former vice president says he was stunned.

He turned to his closest advisers — his family — to discuss what to do next.

Spread out across the country, the Bidens quickly convened through a series of group text messages. For months, they'd weighed whether Biden, whose two prior White House campaigns were abject failures, should try again.

There was now consensus: Prepare to run against Trump.

Biden's sister and longtime political confidante, Valerie Biden Owens, described Trump's comments as a “blow” to the man who had served as the No. 2 to America's first black president.

“It really started percolating, and the essence of this was Charlottesville,” Biden Owens said. “I can tell you that was a major motivating moment for my brother, and the entire family.”

“The big 'yes' started with this,” said Ted Kaufman, Biden's longtime Senate chief of staff.

Nearly two years later, Biden made it official Thursday when he announced in a video that he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination again. He blasted Trump's “moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it” and declared the election a “battle for the soul of this nation.”

His strategy amounts to a bet that ideology and policy matter less to Democratic primary voters than their desire for victory over a president who has upended social and political values that liberals hold dear.

“If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen,” Biden said in the 3½-minute announcement video.

Trump responded on Twitter with a message addressed to “Sleepy Joe.”

“I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign,” Trump tweeted, adding that “if you make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate!”

Biden’s focus on Trump contrasted with the campaign announcements of most of the 19 other Democratic hopefuls, who have emphasized their own messages over Trump bashing in their efforts to stand out from the crowd.

But Biden has less need to define himself than other candidates, and attacking the president may be more effective now than it was in 2016, when Hillary Clinton focused on Trump’s negatives and lost. Democratic voters have now had a few years to see what the Trump presidency has wrought.

A campaign spokesman said Biden’s message will build on “three pillars” — the “battle for the soul of America,” spelled out in the video; rebuilding the middle class, which is to be the focus of his first public campaign event Monday at a Teamsters union hall in Pittsburgh; and uniting America, the theme of a big campaign kickoff rally scheduled for Philadelphia on May 18.

The early focus on Pennsylvania is no accident. The state was one of three, along with Wisconsin and Michigan, where narrow Trump victories in 2016 put him in the White House.

In the run-up to the Philadelphia rally, the aide said, Biden will also travel to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, all states with early contests in the primary season.

Biden quickly racked up endorsements Thursday morning, gaining the backing of Democratic senators Chris Coons of Delaware and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who previously served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he had urged the former vice president to run and highlighted Biden's potential electability when asked to assess African Americans' feelings.

"Black voters are saying the same thing that white Democrats are saying: We can't afford to lose. That is a big message. That's a big motivator," Richmond said.

While Obama has so far declined to endorse Biden, he took the unusual step of weighing in on Thursday's announcement.

"President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made," Obama spokeswoman Katie Hill said. "He relied on the vice president's knowledge, insight and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today."