As President Biden gets closer to officially announcing his 2024 re-election bid, one of the most important developments in the campaign is something that simply didn’t happen: No real primary challenger has emerged.
Despite concerns about his age — at 80, he is already the oldest U.S. president in history — and persistent misgivings about the presidency among large numbers of voters in the party, Mr. Biden has all but cleared the field. According to repeated polls, Democrats are eager for a new face in 2024, they just don’t know who it will be.
After the Democrats won the 2022 midterm elections more than expected, any energy to challenge Mr Biden quickly dissipated. While Mr. Biden has recently made a more explicit appeal to the center, the left remains consistent. Potential competitors have been watching.
Donald J. Trump’s early candidacy immediately suggested that the stakes for Democrats in 2024 will be as high as in 2020. The former president has proven to be the most powerful unifying force in Democratic politics over the past decade, and the same factors that led the party to support Mr. Biden then still exist today. Beyond that, the advantages of the White House and any challenge seem destined to hamstring Biden, not defeat him.
Biden is now planning to officially start his 2024 campaign as early as Tuesday, with a low-key video on the anniversary of his campaign four years ago. Many Democrats greeted the rollout with more stoicism than enthusiasm.
“We need stability,” said New York Representative Jamal Bowman, a progressive who won the seat in 2020 by toppling an older, more moderate incumbent in the primary. “Biden delivered on that.”
Skating to a second nomination isn’t always a guarantee. As the current president, Mr Biden is clearly the darling favorite. But those close to the White House have been surprised by the speed with which all parties in the party have gone from mourning Mr. Biden to almost unanimous cheers, at least in public.
DNC member and party strategist Maria Cardona has been confounded by doubts that Mr Biden is the best choice for Democrats, especially against Mr Trump, 76, who remains the Republican frontrunner By.
“Regardless of his reservations, whatever his concerns about his growing age — which he is, and that’s going to be an issue he and the campaign are going to have to deal with — when his opponents are almost as good as he is despite his age. But it’s easy to do the exact opposite of what this country deserves,” she said.
Currently, the only announced challengers to Biden are Marianne Williamson, whose last run in the 2020 race was an asterisk, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. , who is using his last name to promote his anti-vaccine views.
“Democrats are complaining that he might be too old,” Ms. Cardona added. “But when they were asked, ‘So, who?’ there was no one else.”
Prominent and ambitious governors including California’s Gavin Newsom and Illinois’ JB Pritzker have made it clear they won’t be running for Biden like the 2020 runner-up Nomination of Mr. Many in the party are disgusted by the political potential of the next president — the online option, Vice President Kamala Harris.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the left is very concerned about “fighting against the doctrines: fascism, racism, sexism.” Mr. Grijalva, 75, said it overshadowed Mr. Biden’s age: “I think why it’s not a bigger problem is because we don’t believe in ageism either.”
“If we weed out people because of their age,” he said, “I don’t think it’s fair and just.”
Mr. Biden’s support among Democrats remains middling. An NBC News poll this month found that 70 percent of Americans — including 51 percent of Democrats — think Mr. Biden should not run for re-election. If Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wins the Republican nomination, Mr. Biden’s general election race could be tougher. Mr. DeSantis, 44, has been polling better than Mr. Trump in a hypothetical November showdown.
Privately, some of Biden’s top donors and fundraisers continue to worry about his durability in the campaign and a second term. Those who have raised or donated $1 million or more in 2020 are invited to a private gathering with the president this Friday.
A wealthy donor considered distributing a letter this year urging Mr. Biden not to run before being dissuaded by colleagues because it would be futile and embarrass Mr. Biden, according to a person familiar with the matter. spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Some contributors describe themselves in a state of suspended and repressed anxiety: fully but nervously supporting Mr. Biden.
Democrats, especially the White House, are well aware of the modern history of presidential re-election campaigns, and nearly every incumbent who lost recently faced serious primary challenges: George HW Bush in 1992, Jimmy Carter in 1980, Gerald Ford in 1976, and, before he quit and the Democrats ultimately lost, Lyndon Johnson in 1968.
Combine that pattern with the specter of a second Trump presidency, and Democrats have joined the loyalists almost unanimously, especially after the party avoided a red wave and the kind of losses many predicted last fall.
“People realize he’s the only candidate who can defeat Donald Trump and protect American democracy,” Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat who has served in the Democratic leadership, said of Mr. Biden’s 2020 nomination. explain. “
Mr. Biden further paved his way by pushing for the most substantive change in the Democratic primary in decades. He pushed to shift the nation’s No. 1 spot on the nominating calendar from Iowa, an overwhelmingly white progressive streak (Mr. Biden was No. 4 in the state), to South Carolina, where Black voters backed his campaign for 2020.
During his first two years in office, Mr. Biden built considerable goodwill among progressives, supported many priorities on the left, including canceling student loan debt, and maintained a more open relationship with the far left of the party than in the previous two years. Communication channels democratic government. He signed landmark bills that have been a priority, including climate provisions in the Lower Inflation Act and a temporary child tax credit.
Some of Biden’s advisers credit the Unity Task Force formed after the 2020 primaries as a key starting point. Liberty activists say former White House chief of staff Ron Klain has an unusual open door policy.
“Bernie didn’t call Rahm Emanuel early in the Obama administration to discuss policy,” said Ali Rabin Hafter, Senator Bernie Sanders’ former deputy chief of staff and Democratic strategist. As for Mr Biden, he said the majority of progressives on Capitol Hill would give him a “check mark beyond expectations”.
Mr. Biden is now relying on residual admiration from the left in his pivot to the center. He talked up the need to cut the deficit by 2023, signed a Republican measure to overturn a progressive crime law in Washington and approved a new oil drilling project in Alaska.
“I’m still frustrated when I see him move to the center because I don’t think there’s a real need for that,” said Mr. Bowman, a New York Democrat. “It’s almost like pandering to a Republican talking point.”
In 2020, California Rep. Eric Swalwell briefly ran for president in the Democratic primary before urging Mr. Biden to pass the “torch” on to the next generation. Four years later, Mr. Swalwell is poised for a second term for Biden, saying the president’s ability to pass major legislation holds the party together.
“I’m concerned that after the 2020 election, Biden won’t be able to govern with the slimmest of majorities in the House and Senate,” he said. “Instead, Biden has been tearing apart legislation that addresses decades of unfulfilled Democratic priorities.”
Many Democrats see Biden as the party’s best chance to limit the loss of white voters without college degrees — the largest electorate in the U.S. — which Trump has pulled from the Democratic Party come out.
“Blue-collar workers have always been our fellow man,” Mr. Biden lamented to donors in January at a private residence on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, underscoring his focus on winning back those voters. “A lot of people think we’re leaving them behind,” Mr Biden told donors. “And it has to be more about attitudes — less about policy.”
The Democrats’ relative success in the midterms — gaining Senate seats and ceding just five House seats to Republicans — is a reminder that despite his own weak poll numbers, Mr. Biden has so far not hurt his political party.
“There’s nothing,” Mr. Swalwell said, “that comes together like success.”