White House brushes off angst, chatter about Biden not running

President Biden
Greg Nash
President Biden speaks during an arrival ceremony for French President Emmanuel Macron on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, December 1, 2022.

The White House and some of its allies are shrugging off angst and chatter about whether President Biden will really run for reelection in 2024 at the age of 81.

Biden looks like a president who plans to run for a second term regardless of his age.

Look at the State of the Union address earlier this month, where he baited Republicans on the issue of cutting Social Security and Medicare in a moment that seemed made for political campaign ads. 

Biden has said he intends to run, a sentiment echoed by his former chief of staff Ron Klain at a going away event earlier this month. In his State of the Union address, Biden said about a dozen times that he wants to “finish the job” Americans gave him when he was elected in 2020.

Yet a story in Politico last week ran with the headline “Biden may not run — and top Dems are quietly preparing.” The story went on to say that Biden no longer seems “absolutely certain” to run for a second term in office.

Aides to Biden take a dim view of such media reports, and argue they are an effort to put pressure on Biden to announce a decision. 

White House officials also feel that the idea that “random Democrats are concerned” about something having to do with Biden has been the tone of almost every political story about their boss since before he launched his 2020 campaign. 

“We’re inured to it. It would be like coming to the Philly Eagles and saying, do you have a comment on how your fans are colorful?” an official said.

Aides and allies also say they believe Biden has time before he needs to formally declare a reelection bid.

First lady Jill Biden, a strong influence on her husband’s political plans, told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that there was little left to decide about a 2024 bid other than when and where to announce it.

President Biden’s travel in the first months of the year look like the stoppings of someone with an eye on 2024, with visits to Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.

Still, the timing of an announcement has been difficult to pin down.

Biden teased an early 2023 decision during a December press conference, and reports by The Hill and other outlets indicated he might declare or send a signal shortly after the State of the Union address.

Aides and allies note that making the announcement now would be historically early.

Former President Obama announced his plans to seek reelection on April 4, 2011. Former President George W. Bush announced his reelection on May 16, 2003, while former President Clinton made an announcement on April 14, 1995.

Biden’s age has shadowed discussions of the president and recent polling indicates that Democrats are wavering in their support for his reelection. An Associated Press poll released earlier this month found 37 percent of Democrats wanted Biden to seek a second term, down from 52 percent last fall. 

As the Republican primary field fills out, it inevitable will lead to questions about whether Biden is the best equipped Democrat to take on a younger opponent like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) or former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Former President Trump, just four years younger than Biden, is seen as the favorite for the GOP nomination.

One Democratic strategist, who chose to remain anonymous, said there has not been much chatter out of the White House on the Politico piece suggesting Biden may not run. The discussion around the White House is instead that the bar for “Democrats are worried” stories is too low and has been for years.

Democrats outside the White House are talking about the president’s timing, but some are brushing that off as paranoia. 

“It does reflect the chatter in bar rooms, at dinners, and everything in between, which is sort of like we’re nervous,” said Ivan Zapien, a Democratic lobbyist and former Democratic National Committee official.

“I think the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was traumatic to every Democrat and every Democratic operative, so I think we’ve been in a constant high state of alert for potential catastrophic events on a daily basis,” he said, adding that being nervous is where “Democrats are in their natural state these days.”

Matt Bennett, who has worked on several previous Democratic campaigns, downplayed the significance of Biden making an announcement early this year. He noted that much of the messaging and strategy for the reelection bid will emanate from the White House and be run by officials already in the building, such as senior Biden adviser Anita Dunn.

“It’s really about money,” said Bennett, a co-founder of centrist think tank Third Way. “When they decide they need to start raising money in earnest, they’ll launch.”

Progressive Marianne Williamson confirmed last week that she will run for the Democratic nomination, but Biden seems unlikely to get a serious primary challenger the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

His top allies have signaled he will entertain a 2024 presidential bid if Biden does not seek reelection.

White House aides, over all, are projecting confidence.

“I get the vibe from the Biden inner circle on the road ahead that they’re extremely confident. And I don’t think that’s an act, I think they’ve got a lot to be proud of,” Zapien said. “They’ll announce when they announce. They’re confident. I’m confident that everybody that I know who may be nervous now will jump in once they announce.”

Tags 2024 presidential election Donald Trump Jill Biden Joe Biden medicare President Joe Biden Ron DeSantis social security State of the Union

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