WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will formally announce his plans to run for reelection in 2024 on Tuesday, urging voters to give him more time to “finish the job” he began when he was sworn in and to set aside their concerns about extending America’s oldest president’s tenure for another four years.
Biden, who will be 86 by the end of his second term, is hoping that his first-term legislative accomplishments and more than 50 years of experience in Washington would outweigh concerns about his age. He has a clear path to his party’s candidacy, with no strong Democratic opponents. But he’ll still have to fight hard to keep the presidency in a deeply divided country.
The declaration will come four years after Biden announced for the presidency in 2019, promising to mend the “soul of the nation” amid Donald Trump’s stormy presidency – a goal that has proved unattainable.
While most modern presidents have made the decision to run for reelection, Biden has not always done so. A sizable number of Democratic voters have expressed a desire for him not to run, citing concerns about his age, which Biden has described as “totally legitimate.”
Few things, however, have united Democratic voters more than the threat of Trump returning to power. And after Democrats performed better than predicted in the midterm elections last year, Biden’s political standing within his party steadied.
For the time being, Trump, 76, is the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee, setting up a historic sequel to the stormy 2020 campaign. Trump, on the other hand, faces tremendous challenges, including being the first former president to face criminal charges.
The remaining Republican field is tense, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis emerging as an early challenger to Trump. His stature is also being questioned, as is his willingness to campaign outside of his increasingly Republican-leaning state.
As the campaign’s contours emerge, Biden intends to campaign on his record. He spent his first two years as president fighting the coronavirus pandemic and passing key laws such as the bipartisan infrastructure package, legislation to stimulate high-tech industry, and climate legislation. With Republicans now in control of the House, Biden’s focus has shifted to enacting those massive laws and ensuring that voters credit him for the improvements, while sharpening the contrast with the GOP ahead of an expected showdown over raising the country’s borrowing limit, which could have crippling consequences for the country’s economy.
However, the president has a number of policy goals and unfulfilled pledges from his first campaign that he is appealing to voters to give him another chance to complete.
“Let’s finish the job,” Biden said a dozen times during his State of the Union address in February, listing everything from passing a ban on assault-style weapons and lowering prescription drug costs to codifying a national right to abortion following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision last year.
Boosted by the election results, Biden intends to continue portraying all Republicans as supporting “ultra-MAGA” politics — a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — regardless of whether his predecessor appears on the ballot in 2024. He’s spent the last several months road-testing campaign themes, such as portraying Republicans as pushing for tax cuts for businesses and the rich while attempting to reduce social safety net programs relied on by ordinary Americans.
The president may also point to his work in the last two years to fortify American alliances, lead a worldwide coalition to bolster Ukraine’s defenses against Russia’s invasion, and get the US back into the Paris climate agreement. However, public support for Ukraine in the United States has waned in recent months, and some voters are questioning the tens of billions of dollars in military and economic aid coming to Kyiv.
Biden also faces residual criticism over his administration’s disastrous 2021 pullout from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of war, undermining the image of competence he sought to project to the world, and he is the subject of GOP attacks on his immigration and economic policies.
As a 2020 candidate, Biden emphasized his familiarity with the halls of power in Washington and his global ties, promising to restore a sense of normalcy to the country in the midst of Trump’s turbulent presidency and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Biden was well aware of voters’ reservations about his age even back then.
“Look, I view myself as a bridge, not anything else,” Biden said in March 2020 while campaigning in Michigan alongside younger Democrats including as now-Vice President Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “You witnessed an entire generation of leaders stand behind me. They are the country’s future.”
Three years later, with the president now 80, Biden supporters say his tenure in office indicated that he saw himself as a transformational rather than a transitory leader.
Nonetheless, many Democrats would prefer that Biden not run for re-election. According to a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, only 47 percent of Democrats want him to run for a second term, up from 37 percent in February. And Biden’s verbal — and occasionally physical — gaffes have been fuel for the Republican Party, which has pushed to portray him as unsuitable for government.
On numerous instances, Biden has dismissed worries about his age by simply replying, “Watch me.”
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, his doctor, deemed him “healthy, vigorous, and fit” to undertake his White House responsibilities during a routine medical in February.
Aides recognize that while some in his party would prefer an alternative to Biden, there is no agreement among their varied coalition on who that may be. And they say that when opposed to whoever the Republican nominee is, Democrats and independents will unite behind Biden.
To win again, Biden will need to resurrect the coalition of young voters and Black voters, particularly women, who supported him in 2020, as well as blue-collar Midwesterners, moderates, and disenchanted Republicans. He’ll have to defend his position in Georgia and Arizona, longtime GOP strongholds that he narrowly won in his past campaign, while also carrying the so-called “blue wall” in the Upper Midwest.
Biden’s reelection campaign comes as the country faces unpredictable economic crosscurrents. Inflation is slowing after reaching a generation high, raising the cost of goods and services, but unemployment is at a 50-year low, and the economy is showing signs of resilience despite Federal Reserve rate hikes.
Presidents generally postpone their reelection announcements in order to capitalize on the benefits of incumbency and remain above the political fray for as long as possible while their opponents trade insults. However, the advantage provided by being president can be shaky – three of the last seven presidents have lost reelection, most notably Trump in 2020.
Biden’s declaration largely corresponds to former President Barack Obama’s timeline, who waited until April 2011 to declare for a second term. Trump announced his reelection campaign on the day he was sworn in as President in 2017.
Biden’s day-to-day agenda as a candidate is unlikely to change substantially — at least not immediately — with advisers feeling his biggest political asset is demonstrating to the American people that he is leading. And, if he follows Obama’s lead, he might not hold any formal campaign rallies until well into 2024. Obama’s reelection rally did not take place until May 2012.
Following the announcement on Tuesday, Biden was scheduled to address union members before hosting South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for a state visit at the White House. Later this week, he hopes to meet with party contributors in Washington.
Biden’s formal approval comes after months of popular skepticism that the president would seek another term, despite several indications to the contrary.
Prior to the president’s announcement, first lady Jill Biden acknowledged her own surprise at the ongoing speculation about her husband’s intentions to run.
“How many times does he have to say it for you to believe it?” she said in late February, according to The Associated Press. “He says he’s not done.”