The goal of his advisers is to send every possible message that Biden, 79, is ready, able and determined to carry the party banner into another presidential election, especially if the opponent is his nemesis, Donald Trump, 76.
Former Democratic senator Chris Dodd, a close Biden ally and friend, said there is no reason to think the president will not run again. “The one thing I guarantee you is he is no quitter,” Dodd said. “There is always some speculation in every administration, but from my conversations, he is a guy who is running again.”
Several prominent Democrats are maneuvering in case Biden changes his mind as donors, lawmakers and strategists fret about his age and ability to run a grueling campaign. If reelected, Biden would be 86 by the end of his second term.
The White House, in contrast, has yet to put forward a clear argument for why voters should choose Democrats over Republicans in the fall, many party strategists said, alternating between attacks on corporate greed and denunciations of “Ultra MAGA” Republicans.
Biden’s reelection plans do not entirely hinge on what Trump does, but aides and allies agree the president would almost certainly not change his mind about running again if Trump is the Republican nominee and he is healthy enough for a campaign, a fact Biden has acknowledged. Biden considers his defeat of Trump, whom he sees as disrupter of American democratic traditions, central to his legacy.
Biden’s supporters argue that he has shown political acumen and governing skill in recent years, and that there is no evidence anyone else in the party would do better.
“He has beaten this guy Trump once, and I think he beats him again if Trump is a candidate,” Dodd said. “A lot of the problems he faces has nothing to do with his doing. Who would have anticipated Ukraine? He has handled that with a great deal of sophistication.”
Dodd spent last week with the president in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas, and praised Biden’s diplomatic skills and grasp of the thorny issues on the agenda. “We had a private luncheon with all the heads of state,” Dodd said. “Everyone got to ask questions. He was terrific. We forget how good he can be and how good he really is in those settings.”
But a subset of the Democratic Party remains convinced there is a good chance Biden will not ultimately go through with another campaign, and many do not see Vice President Harris as a suitable successor, especially given the way her 2020 presidential primary campaign collapsed. That has resulted in some not so quiet jockeying among Democratic leaders, who vow not to run against Biden but see an opening should he bow out.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is speaking in New Hampshire on Saturday at the state Democratic Party’s annual convention. Aides to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a memo to allies that he “has not ruled out another run for president” if Biden does not run, though the 80-year-old lawmaker recently said, “I think Biden will probably run again, and if he runs again I will support him.”
And many of the 2020 Democratic candidates, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), could be in the mix as well.
Some Democrats are now hoping Biden officially declares his candidacy for another term right after the midterms this November, but aides say that is unlikely at this point. That timing might be awkward if Democrats suffer devastating losses as expected.
Shortly after Biden took office, his advisers ruled out a repeat of the approach Trump took for reelection in 2020, which involved setting up a committee to raise money on the day of his inauguration in 2017.
Biden’s family members, who played a major role in pushing him into the 2020 race, could also play an important role this time around. Biden often recounts the story of his grandchildren calling a family meeting and urging him to run, and Jill Biden has said she was moved by strangers who pleaded for her husband to jump into that campaign.
Valerie Biden, the president’s sister who had been intimately involved in his campaigns before backing away in 2020, has told others she is frustrated her brother’s top aides are not in more contact with the family, according to one person familiar with the dynamic, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private matters.
While Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), speaking recently on CNN, declined to explicitly endorse his reelection, there are no visible signs within the party of an active effort to push Biden aside if he wants to run. But concerns persist about his prospects, especially as Trump signals he is strongly considering a run while House committee hearings provide startling reminders of an apparent disregard for democratic norms.
Biden ran for president in 2020 promising “strong, steady, stable leadership,” although Democrats admit his standing has taken a hit under his administration, which included a botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and a failure to unite Democrats around his legislative agenda. A Wall Street Journal poll in March found 57 percent of Americans disapproved of the job Biden was doing in “being a strong leader.”
Biden’s own strategists are heartened by continued support for his character, which they hope would contrast well with Trump in a rematch. The same poll found that Americans believe Biden “tries to do the right thing” by a margin of 50 percent to 48 percent. Democrats also note that despite historically high inflation, the economy under Biden has been booming in many ways, with strong job growth and falling unemployment.
“In his first year he has given Democrats a strong record to run on in November: a historically low 3.6% unemployment rate and over 8 million jobs added to the economy, including over half a million manufacturing jobs,” Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement. “I can tell you firsthand that, across the board, Democrats are united behind the president.”