WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set on Tuesday to formally announce his plans to run for reelection in 2024, asking voters to give him more time to “finish the job” he began when he was sworn into office and to set aside their concerns about extending the run of America’s oldest president for another four years.
Biden, who would be 86 at the end of a second term, is betting his first-term legislative achievements and more than 50 years of experience in Washington will count for more than concerns over his age. He faces a smooth path to winning his party’s nomination, with no serious Democratic rivals. But he’s still set to face a hard-fought struggle to retain the presidency in a bitterly divided nation.
The announcement will come on the four-year anniversary of when Biden declared for the White House in 2019, promising to heal the “soul of the nation” amid the turbulent presidency of Donald Trump — a goal that has remained elusive.
While the question of seeking reelection has been a given for most modern presidents, that’s not always been the case for Biden. A notable swath of Democratic voters have indicated they would prefer he not run, in part because of his age — concerns Biden himself has called “ totally legitimate.”
Yet few things have unified Democratic voters like the prospect of Trump returning to power. And Biden’s political standing within his party stabilized after Democrats notched a stronger-than-expected performance in last year’s midterm elections.
For now, the 76-year-old Trump is the favorite to emerge as the Republican nominee, creating the potential of a historic sequel to the tumultuous 2020 campaign. But Trump faces significant hurdles of his own, including the designation of being the first former president to face criminal charges.
The remaining GOP field is volatile, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis emerging as an early alternative to Trump. His stature is also in question, however, amid questions about his readiness to campaign outside of his increasingly Republican-leaning state.
As the contours of the campaign begin to take shape, Biden plans to campaign on his record. He spent his first two years as president combating the coronavirus pandemic and pushing through major bills such as the bipartisan infrastructure package and legislation to promote high-tech manufacturing and climate measures. With Republicans now in control of the House, Biden has shifted his focus to implementing those massive laws and making sure voters credit him for the improvements, while sharpening the contrast with the GOP ahead of an expected showdown over raising the nation's borrowing limit that could have debilitating consequences for the country's economy.
But the president also has multiple policy goals and unmet promises from his first campaign that he’s pitching voters on giving him another chance to fulfill.
“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 the cost of prescription drugs to codifying a national right to abortion after the Supreme Court's ruling last year overturning Roe v. Wade.
Buoyed by the midterm results, Biden plans to continue to cast all Republicans as embracing what he calls “ultra-MAGA” politics — a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again" slogan — regardless of whether his predecessor ends up on the 2024 ballot. He’s spent the last several months road-testing campaign themes, including painting Republicans as fighting for tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy while trying to cut social safety net benefits relied on by everyday Americans.
The president also can point to his work over the past two years shoring up American alliances, leading a global coalition to support Ukraine’s defenses against Russia’s invasion and returning the U.S. to the Paris climate accord. But public support in the U.S. for Ukraine has softened in recent months, and some voters question the tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance flowing to Kyiv.
Biden also faces lingering criticism over his administration's chaotic 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of war, which undercut the image of competence he aimed to portray to the world, and he finds himself the target of GOP attacks over his immigration and economic policies.
As a candidate in 2020, Biden pitched voters on his familiarity with the halls of power in Washington and his relationships around the world as he promised to return a sense of normalcy to the country amid Trump’s tumultuous presidency and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
But even back then, Biden was acutely aware of voters’ concerns about his age.
“Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,” Biden said in March 2020, as he campaigned in Michigan with younger Democrats, including now-Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.”
Three years later, the president now 80, Biden allies say his time in office has demonstrated that he saw himself as more of a transformational than a transitional leader.
Still, many Democrats would prefer that Biden didn’t run again. A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows just 47% of Democrats say they want him to seek a second term, up from 37% in February. And Biden’s verbal — and occasional physical — stumbles have become fodder among the GOP, which has sought to cast him as unfit for office.
Biden, on multiple occasions, has brushed back concerns about his age, saying simply, “Watch me.”
During a routine physical in February, his physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, declared him “healthy, vigorous” and “fit” to handle his White House responsibilities.
Aides acknowledge that while some in his party might prefer an alternative to Biden, there is anything but consensus within their diverse coalition on who that might be. And they insist that when Biden is compared to whomever the GOP nominates, Democrats and independents will rally around Biden.
To prevail again, Biden will need to revive the alliance of young voters and Black voters — particularly women — along with blue-collar Midwesterners, moderates and disaffected Republicans who helped him win in 2020. He'll have to again carry the so-called “blue wall” in the Upper Midwest, while protecting his position in Georgia and Arizona, longtime GOP strongholds that he narrowly won in his last campaign.
Biden’s reelection bid comes as the nation weathers uncertain economic crosscurrents. Inflation is ticking down after hitting the highest rate in a generation, driving up the price of goods and services, but unemployment is at a 50-year low, and the economy is showing signs of resilience despite Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.
Presidents typically try to delay their reelection announcements to maintain the advantages of incumbency and skate above the political fray for as long as possible while their rivals trade jabs. But the leg up offered by being in the White House can be rickety — three of the last seven presidents have lost reelection, most recently Trump in 2020.
Biden’s announcement is roughly consistent with the timeline followed by former President Barack Obama, who waited until April 2011 to declare for a second term. Trump launched his reelection bid on the day he was sworn in in 2017.
Biden is not expected to dramatically alter his day-to-day schedule as a candidate — at least not immediately — with aides believing his strongest political asset is showing the American people that he is governing. And if he follows the Obama playbook, he may not hold any formal campaign rallies until well into 2024. Obama didn't hold a reelection rally until May 2012.
On the heels of the announcement Tuesday, Biden was set to deliver remarks to union members before hosting South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for a state visit at the White House. He plans to meet with party donors in Washington later this week.
Biden’s formal go-ahead comes after months of public incredulity that the president would seek another term despite plentiful signs that he was intent on doing so.
Ahead of the president’s announcement, first lady Jill Biden expressed disbelief herself at the persistent questions about her husband’s intent to run.
“How many times does he have to say it for you to believe it?” she told The Associated Press in late February. “He says he’s not done."