WASHINGTON — Top White House advisers are ready to make final decisions on launching President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign, even as the hopeful candidate appears to show little urgency to formally declare his 2024 plans, they told NBC News. various sources familiar with the discussions. .
Biden’s deliberate approach to making public what he has repeatedly made clear in private is being driven by a number of factors: No major Democratic challenger is emerging; his predecessor, now indicted, is hogging political attention; and a big showdown with congressional Republicans over spending is looming.
And then there are reasons unique to Biden for delaying an announcement beyond the timelines laid out informally by his team.
“The decision part is over, but he resents the pressure of having to announce what he has already decided on,” said a source familiar with the matter. «It’s frustrating, but it’s also very Joe Biden.»
Another longtime aide, who has navigated Biden’s candidacy decisions before, said the delay also serves to «preserve the option not to» run.
Many of Biden’s inner circle were there eight years ago, when he appeared about to announce his candidacy on a Tuesday night, only to declare in the Rose Garden on Wednesday afternoon that he would not run in 2016.
Even when Biden has publicly said that he «intends to run» in 2024, he almost always phrases it with the caveat that he «respects fate,» a nod to the real possibility that circumstances, whether political or personal, could change and point it in a different direction.
However, advisers universally say they have little doubt that Biden will seek a second term and that preparations are underway accordingly. The president has been teasing a re-election bid at public events recently, coinciding with a full-administration campaign-style tour touting his legislative accomplishments. And in doing so, he takes advantage of one of the main advantages of him at the moment: being president, not a candidate.
With no significant primary opposition, Biden has the luxury of starting his final campaign on his own terms. Biden has never been a favorite of the left, but the progressive wing of the Democratic Party seems to have rallied behind him.
«Why would you ever announce when you’ve already cleared the field without doing any work to defeat anyone?» said a source.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who co-chaired Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, said of Biden: “He’s had a successful two years with significant legislation to bring back manufacturing. He is likeable and works personally with the people of the House and Senate.
“And he is the incumbent president. People know that challenging an incumbent president is usually not a good party strategy.»
Noting that liberal senators like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are being kept out of the race out of deference to Biden, Rep. Jim Clyburn, DC, a Biden ally, said: “So far, there is no serious challenger. So there is no reason for him to go out and expose himself to those [campaign] rules and regulations that restrict how much you can do when you are an advertised candidate.
“The longer you can go without being an announced candidate, the better off you’ll be,” Clyburn said.
A White House spokesman reiterated Biden’s intention to seek re-election.
“President Biden has made it clear that he intends to run, and his goal is to finish the job he is doing for American families: continue to bring back manufacturing from abroad, further reduce the deficit by making special interests rich pay your fair share and stand for fundamental rights like freedom of choice,» Andrew Bates said in a statement to NBC News. «There has never been a deadline for any announcement.»
Biden’s penchant for putting off an official announcement, according to a source familiar with his thinking, has been fueled in part by Republican infighting, particularly with former President Donald Trump directing some of his harshest attacks on an as-yet-unannounced chief foe, the governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis.
“If you announce that you are running for re-election, you start to change the conversation. Why would you want to do that?» the source said.
Biden’s campaign headquarters is likely to be based in Wilmington, Delaware, though staff may also work in the Washington area, where part of the campaign apparatus is being assembled in the Democratic National Committee. Keisha Lance Bottoms and Cedric Richmond, both former senior White House officials and top surrogates for Biden’s 2020 campaign, are being considered as two possible national co-chairs.
Biden has yet to sign on to a campaign leadership team that would work with his White House advisers, though interviews have been conducted and potential candidates have been told to «stay tuned» for now, another source familiar with the planning said. .
Jennifer Ridder, a veteran of Biden’s 2020 campaign, has emerged as a frontrunner for a top campaign job, and a source stressed that the final list is yet to be finalized. A source familiar with planning identified her and eight other Democratic strategists as candidates for top-level jobs, several of whom are veterans of the competitive 2022 campaign and others who have worked on national campaigns.
Ridder has ties to Biden’s inner circle. She is executive vice president of the Democratic consultancy Precision Strategies, which was co-founded by Jen O’Malley Dillon, who ran Biden’s successful 2020 campaign and is now deputy chief of staff in the White House.
Asked if she could be selected for the campaign manager job, Ridder said in an interview: «That’s very flattering.»
“I think there is consideration, but they certainly are talking to a number of people,” he said.
Even as Biden has been content to delay launching a campaign, certain factors and timelines are influencing the timeline.
A key hurdle that must be cleared before Biden’s candidacy becomes official is where the DNC plans to hold its 2024 convention. That announcement, which is ultimately a Biden decision, could come as soon as this week, with Atlanta and Chicago considered as the main candidates.
Legislative deadlines could also pressure him to make things official no later than May, after which the debt-limit fight and budget negotiations with congressional Republicans are likely to intensify. The Treasury Department has warned of a debt default starting in June if Congress doesn’t act, but congressional leaders have yet to engage in meaningful discussions.
Announcing a 2024 run during a showdown with congressional Republicans is something Biden’s advisers hope to avoid. “You can’t advertise over a fiscal cliff. There is no room to announce before the fiscal cliff and don’t be pushed over the edge by the Republicans,» said a person familiar with the 2024 plans.
Biden’s waiting period also poses other challenges.
One concern that White House aides have privately raised, a person familiar with the matter said, is that Biden cannot raise money for the campaign until he declares his candidacy. The tradeoff is that Biden can look and act like president by making full use of Air Force One and the presidential intimidation pulpit to spread his message, but he can’t raise money.
Still, if Trump ends up as the Republican nominee, that will surely boost Democratic fundraising, some strategists said. In a rematch with Trump, they said, Biden could have all the money he needs to win.
Deciding when to announce one’s candidacy «always comes down to money,» said a Democratic campaign strategist. “Biden doesn’t need a platform; he doesn’t need to charter a plane to travel across the country and talk to people. He doesn’t need a campaign right now.»
«Eventually, you’re going to need some money,» the strategist said.
Michael Toner, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, noted that running a campaign creates expenses that Biden can avoid by delaying his announcement. “The actual consumption rate comes from staffing and event costs,” Toner said. “These presidents are used to really nice events that are expensive to put on. They just are. It’s a chicken and egg thing: the later you start your campaign, you won’t need as much money.”
Outside the White House, pro-Biden political action committees and Democratic operatives expect him to run. They said they have not heard anything from Biden-world to suggest otherwise.
“Everyone has told me that we are preparing,” said a Democratic strategist. «All [outside] the groups speak up and are ready to move on.”