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.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2024, Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Biden needs to announce his intentions either publicly or at minimum, discretely to party officials and let the rumor mill take care of the rest, after the 2022 elections. To delay an announcement to late 2023 would be a detriment to Dems and a slap at the voters.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    All due respect, but Biden doesn’t owe anyone anything at this point with respect to publicizing his plans. And to be honest, if withholding an announcement keeps everyone from active campaigning for an extra year or so would be helpful to the party and helpful to the country.

    9
  3. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Looking at recent precedent, it sure looks like mid-May is the absolute latest he needs to announce. And probably mid-April. Republicans will be organizing and fundraising by then and the logistics don’t take care of themselves.

  4. Kathy says:

    No one really takes a lame duck seriously.

    If Biden plans to serve one term, he should say nothing about it until afer the 22 midterms.

    Another option is he runs and wins reelection, knowing he’ll have to retire before 2026, leaving Harris in charge. This won’t happen, because if that’s the plan then it will leak and harris would be the de facto candidate. Bad optics all over.

    1
  5. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: Why “needs”? Even precedence doesn’t apply here. I can’t think of a first term president in the same situation as him. Every other one was definitely going to run for a second term. Joe Biden is the one who has to weigh the pros and cons of announcing and he should do it based on his unique circumstances. And the very idea that he owes other potential candidates an announcement in his first year so they can spend the next three years running is absurd. This eternal campaigning is bad for the candidates, bad for the parties, and most importantly, bad for the country.

    9
  6. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “Looking at recent precedent, it sure looks like mid-May is the absolute latest he needs to announce”

    The non-Trump presidents you mentioned announced in the spring of the year before they were up for reelection. Using that as precedent, we are talking about roughly 16 months from now. So the clock is not quite ticking as loudly as you suggest.

    6
  7. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath: Yes, you’re right. My internal math was not right.

  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Moosebreath: On the other hand, if Biden does announce quickly, we can have an “at 3 years (!!!!) running time, campaigns are waaaaaaaaaayyyyy tooooooooooo loooooooooong” outrage post. That would be fun!

    3
  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m with @MarkedMan:. Joe has time to make a decision. As for his age, Joe can reasonably expect another 9 years. He’s fit, trim, seems to be pretty healthy. (He’s got a schedule that’d kill me in short order). According to the same actuarial tables, Trump has 11 years left, but he’s also obese, which probably shaves a year or two off that. So, all things being equal we’d expect Biden to croak around 2030, and Trump around 2032.

    People are internalizing Republican ageist propaganda about Joe which somehow they don’t apply to Trump. Given Trump’s condition a reasonable guess would be that the two men would die at about the same time.

    1
  10. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Given Trump’s condition a reasonable guess would be that the two men would die at about the same time.”

    Ideally with their hands wrapped around each others’ necks.

    3
  11. Andy says:

    I disagree with the thrust of this post. Biden has only been in office for 11 months. After the mid-terms is perfectly fine in my view – I could care less if that inconveniences fundraising timelines. If a year isn’t enough for someone to raise money before the primary season, then too bad.

    This cycle of politics as an endless campaign really needs to stop.

    4
  12. inhumans99 says:

    Like most of us, I think James is so eager to put 2021 in the rear-view mirror that he thought he was posting this on 12/17/2022, lol. Even then, it would still be a bit too far ahead of the election in 2024 to insist that President Biden put down his marker that he is running again, but I get it that if 2023 were right around the corner that the chatter about his 2024 plans would start to reach a deafening roar.