Biden’s plan for reelection freezes Democratic field

President Biden’s announcement that he plans to run for reelection has frozen the field of potential Democratic contenders for 2024 and could mean a late start to the primary process if he changes his mind.

Biden, in announcing his plans this week, hedged by referring to “fate” potentially intervening in his expectation to run.

But even if his plans change, Biden has put the future on hold for the next generation of Democrats, many of whom are decades younger and lost to him in the 2020 primaries. That includes Vice President Harris, who would be in a prime spot to carry Biden’s mantle if he decided to step aside.

Democrats say it would have undercut Biden’s presidency to make himself a lame duck at this early point, but they wouldn’t be surprised if he claims to have accomplished much of what he set out to do and decides to leave on top after only one term.

“You certainly have to take him at his word that his intention is to run again, but four years is a long time,” said Mark Longabaugh, a veteran Democratic campaign operative. “It creates an interesting dynamic if he decides to step aside. That decision would likely come very late and would truncate the nominating process, creating a potentially difficult environment. I think there will be pressure on him to formally announce his decision by the spring or summer of 2023. He would just be making himself a lame duck and giving up too much of his presidency if he announced that before.”

The dynamics of the 2024 race would change significantly were Biden to ultimately decide against running. The election would no longer be a referendum on Biden’s first term, said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former communications director for Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) 2016 campaign, but a choice election between two candidates who did not hold office for the past four years.

“If Biden runs for reelection, you might not see as many Republican candidates simply because it’s not going to be as wide open a race,” Conant said, noting that the one caveat is if Biden’s first term takes a turn for the worst.

And it would set off a mad dash for the nomination that Democrats believe would rival the size of the 2020 field.

Harris would be the early favorite, given her proximity to Biden and the connections she’ll be able to develop from the White House.

But a 2024 primary field with no candidate having an iron grip on the base would undoubtedly be an unruly affair that attracts a big number of ambitious politicians.

For now, the jockeying will take place behind the scenes as lawmakers who don’t want to be seen as stepping on Biden’s turf take political votes and quietly build their fundraising machines.

“There’s still a lot you can do to position yourself without declaring,” said Longabaugh.

The 78-year-old president has talked about how he views himself as a “bridge” candidate for the next generation of Democratic leaders, though his allies were not surprised by his disclosure on Thursday that he plans to seek a second term.

“It is still a bridge to a new generation, whether it’s four years or eight,” said Sarah Bianchi, a former top adviser to Biden when he was vice president. “I think he sees America at a very pivotal moment.”

Biden’s disclosure that he intends to seek a second term came 43 months before the November 2024 contest and only two months into his presidency.

It’s usually taken for granted that an incumbent president will seek a second term. Trump announced his reelection campaign on his first day in office.

But Biden’s age and questions about his health were issues during the primary contests and in the general election.

Biden’s mention on Thursday of “fate” potentially having different plans for him was a possible reference to his late son, Beau Biden, whose early death kept Biden from running in the 2016 Democratic primary.

“My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation,” Biden told reporters during his first formal news conference. “I’m a great respecter of fate. I’ve never been able to plan four and half, three and a half years ahead for certain.”

The latest Reuters-Ipsos survey found 53 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing, down only slightly from Inauguration Day.

A Gallup poll released Friday found that a strong majority of Americans — 63 percent — approve of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that he signed into law earlier this month. Democrats believe that they will be able to run on the bill in the 2022 midterm elections, and his overall response to the pandemic will likely be a major focus of Biden’s reelection campaign should he stick to the pledge to run for a second term.

“He’s a president who is in the mid- to high 50s in popularity and is delivering on the promises that he made to voters and seeing a positive response so far. That bodes well for any reelection effort,” said Josh Schwerin, a Democratic strategist.

“I think we should all be thinking about what we can do to help Biden succeed to hold the Senate and hold the House, and no one should be getting ahead of themselves for the political future. We have a popular incumbent president who we should support,” Schwerin said.

During the primaries, Biden sought to soothe worried Democrats by making the case that he was seeking the nomination only because he was best equipped to accomplish the short-term goal of defeating Trump.

Trump is himself considering running for president again. Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at Democratic think tank Third Way and former aide to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), welcomed Biden’s remarks and said that the president sees himself as the best candidate to defeat Trump should he seek a second term.

“If Joe Biden thinks that Donald Trump is going to be the nominee, he is definitely running for reelection,” Kessler said. “He is not going to leave it to chance that Donald Trump wins another term, and Joe Biden knows how to beat Donald Trump. And Donald Trump has no earthly idea how to beat Joe Biden.”

Tags 2024 presidential campaign Beau Biden biden reelection Charles Schumer Donald Trump Joe Biden Marco Rubio

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