Biden’s 2024 Deadline
The clock is ticking.
WSJ (“Kamala Harris Says She and Biden Haven’t Discussed Running for Re-Election in 2024“):
Vice President Kamala Harris said that she and President Biden have never discussed whether he plans to run for re-election and that it isn’t a topic she thinks about as they near the end of their first year in office.
Ms. Harris, the nation’s first female vice president, has been in the national spotlight as a potential future leader of the Democratic Party, particularly since she took office as Mr. Biden’s second in command.
Mr. Biden, 79 years old, was the oldest president to be sworn in, and since the start of his term some Democrats have privately questioned whether he would mount another campaign. The White House has said repeatedly that he plans to seek re-election in 2024.
“I’m not going to talk about our conversations, but I will tell you this without any ambiguity: We do not talk about nor have we talked about re-election, because we haven’t completed our first year and we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Ms. Harris said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Wednesday.
I’m loath to accuse people of lying without hard evidence, but I don’t believe her.
I have little doubt that she and President Biden are focused on governing and that passing the “Build Back Better” bill and all manner of other initiatives are getting their energy. But it’s inconceivable to me that they have not once discussed whether Biden is leaning toward seeking a second term.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Biden simply has no idea what his future plans are.
My best guess is that he’d very much like to serve the maximum eight years that the Constitution allows but he’s smart enough to know that he’s an old man and things can go south quickly healthwise. So, he’s waiting until the last possible minute to see how he’s holding up.
Alternatively, maybe he’s already decided that, with the next election coming just weeks before his 82nd birthday, he’s a one-termer. But he’s been around the block enough times to know that, the second he tells us that, he becomes a lame duck and has less clout with Senators, who will be clamoring to take his seat rather than working towards his agenda. So, he’s waiting until the last possible minute before showing his hand.
At some point, though, not making an announcement is a disservice to his party. And that point isn’t too terribly distant.
For a variety of reasons, presidential campaigns are getting longer. Biden announced his 2020 campaign on April 25, 2019. But he was making the rounds and acting like a presidential candidate months earlier. Several other candidates had filed exploratory committees in late 2018 and most of the serious ones announced in January or February 2019. But the first debate wasn’t until February 3, 2020.
If Biden runs, he’ll presumably be unopposed or face only token opposition. But that courtesy requires at least strong signaling pretty soon because, otherwise, people need to start the arduous process of fundraising and putting together a campaign staff before too long. Immediately after the midterms—which are less than eleven months away—is too late.
Ah, but maybe he’s trying to freeze the field to give Harris a big advantage, handing her the nomination as a fait accompli. That strikes me as too devious by half. And I don’t think that’s the kind of thing that could be kept secret for long, as Harris herself would have to start organizing and fundraising pretty quickly to fight off challengers.
Beyond would-be challengers, the Democratic National Committee and others need to know reasonably soon whether there’s going to be a series of contested primaries simply for logistical purposes. Agreeing on rules changes, setting up debates, and all the rest takes a lot of lead time.
For the record, Barack Obama announced he was running for a second term on April 4, 2011. His predecessor, George W. Bush, announced on May 16, 2003 (which was apparently so unremarkable I didn’t even bother blogging about it even though I posted 14 times that day). [Donald Trump literally filed his re-election paperwork the day he was inaugurated and was fundraising within a month. We won’t use that as a baseline.]
The clock is ticking.