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Biden announces reelection bid, saying battle for nation’s soul isn’t complete

<i>Pool</i><br/>Upon arrival in Japan
Pool
Upon arrival in Japan

By Kevin Liptak, Arlette Saenz, Maegan Vazquez and Jeremy Diamond, CNN

President Joe Biden formally announced his bid for reelection Tuesday, setting off a battle to convince the country his record merits another four years in the White House and his age won’t impede his ability to govern.

In a video released early Tuesday, Biden framed next year’s contest as a fight against Republican extremism, implicitly arguing he needed more time to fully realize his vow to restore the nation’s character.

“When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are,” he said in the video, which opened with images of the January 6, 2021, insurrection and abortion rights activists protesting at the US Supreme Court.

“The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer,” Biden says in voiceover narration. “I know what I want the answer to be and I think you do too. This is not a time to be complacent. That’s why I’m running for reelection.”

Biden’s official declaration ends any lingering doubts about his intentions, and begins a contest that could evolve into a rematch with his 2020 rival, former President Donald Trump. He enters the race with a significant legislative record but low approval ratings, a conundrum his advisers have so far been unable to solve. Already the oldest president in history, he also confronts persistent questions about his age.

The launch comes four years to the day Biden made his 2020 bid official. That race became a mission to restore the country’s character and prevent Trump from achieving a second term.

Biden’s fourth and final presidential campaign will rest on similar themes. Just as he did in 2020, Biden is making an appeal to the nation’s ideals, particularly with the specter of Trump’s return.

His announcement video warns against “MAGA extremists” who he says are “dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love.”

“Every generation of Americans has faced a moment when they’ve had to defend democracy. Stand up for our personal freedoms. Stand up for the right to vote and our civil rights,” he says. “And this is our moment.”

But Biden’s campaign will also ride on promoting the achievements made during the first two years of his presidency — and an argument he needs more time to “finish the job.”

“I know we can,” he says.

The Republican National Committee immediately rolled out an attack ad against Biden, unveiling what it called an “AI-generated look into the country’s possible future if Joe Biden is re-elected.” The dystopian video intermixes “news” of Biden’s reelection in 2024 with faux reports of high crime, international turmoil, rampant illegal immigration and financial calamity.

Little enthusiasm for another Biden run amid concerns about his age

No major Democratic challengers are expected to emerge, and Biden is likely to enjoy an easy path to his party’s nomination. Only two challengers are in the race: author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Still, at 80, Biden is the nation’s oldest president. Polls have consistently reflected concern about his age even among Democrats.

Most Americans — and even a majority of Democrats — in recent surveys have shown little enthusiasm for another Biden run.

A series of upcoming challenges, from the ongoing war in Ukraine to a still-uncertain economy, could provide hurdles to Biden’s reelection. And now that power in Washington is divided, the GOP-controlled House has largely dashed hopes for major legislative accomplishments in the two years ahead of the 2024 vote.

The president’s tenure in office so far has been marked by key triumphs for his colossal policy agenda, including successfully pushing forward and compromising on a broad set of legacy-making, high pricetag priorities with Congress that addressed funding for the Covid-19 pandemic, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, bolstering domestic semiconductor chip production, and addressing climate change. And under Biden’s watch, the US has attempted to undo Trump’s legacy of diplomacy operating through a nationalist lens, returning to global agreements and reinforcing partnerships with allies who had been jilted by his predecessor.

But broader national challenges — sometimes outside of federal control — along with admitted administration fumbles have also acted as a magnet for GOP criticism and contributed to low national approval ratings throughout Biden’s time in office.

There was the chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan. Struggles on border policy. Fluctuations in energy prices. Missteps with longstanding allies. Supply chain issues and shortages for everyday items and essentials like Covid-19 tests, baby formula and certain medications. Ongoing legal challenges to policies Biden’s implemented through executive authority, like student debt forgiveness. And investigations into his family, which have accelerated under the House GOP majority. And, of course, the pervasive inflation woes impacting global markets and Americans’ spending power.

In the coming months, Biden is also facing pressure to negotiate with Republican lawmakers to raise the national borrowing limit to avoid catastrophic default, a prospect that’s already caused anxiety amid an uncertain economic recovery.

In midterm elections last November, Biden’s party was able to defy historical trends by picking up a seat in the US Senate and avert a dramatic red wave in the House of Representatives. Long a self-identified centrist, Biden has mostly won over progressive Democrats through massive climate investments and steps to relieve student debt. But concerns — including from those among his party — remain over his ability to compel enough voters to stay on board for another term.

Standing up a campaign

Biden’s first public remarks since launching the reelection bid happened at a building trade union members conference in Washington just hours after his campaign video went public. Speaking to a familiar union crowd, he reaffirmed his allegiance to the key group of supporters.

“I’m here because there’s no better place to talk about the progress we’ve made together, and wouldn’t have made without you,” Biden said, underscoring that “there’s more work to do.”

While the president did not explicitly acknowledge his reelection bid, the audience did — chanting “Four more years!” while Biden was speaking.

The Washington beltway event may be indicative of what’s to come for the Biden reelection campaign strategy. The president’s campaign launch is not expected prompt a sudden change in his day-to-day schedule as commander in chief, according to advisers. Instead, it has come amid a busy week of engagements, a signal of Biden’s approach toward balancing his day job with the job of being a candidate.

“He’s just gonna keep doing his schedule,” one Biden adviser told CNN.

First lady Jill Biden, who is expected to be an active campaigner for her spouse, kept to her normal Tuesday schedule and returned to teach at Northern Virginia Community College hours after the president’s announcement video launched.

“Just like four years ago—I’m off to teach and Joe’s launched his (re-election) campaign! Let’s finish the job!” she tweeted.

The launch and the lack of any immediate campaign rallies mirror then-President Barack Obama’s reelection launch. Like Obama, Biden’s video announcement will set off a mad-dash of fundraising and build-out of the reelection infrastructure Biden hopes will win him a second term. But it won’t put Biden on the campaign trail in the near future.

Obama held his first reelection campaign rally in May 2012, 13 months after announcing his bid for a second term.

The wait for a Biden reelection rally could be just as long.

As of now, Biden advisers said the president does not intend to hold any reelection campaign rallies until Republicans have a presumptive nominee and the general election begins in earnest.

Biden does intend to leverage the power of the incumbency and the bully pulpit that comes with it. While he will forego rallies, he will continue to leverage official White House events and travel outside of Washington to tout his accomplishments, draw a contrast with Republicans and get out his reelection message.

What Biden could begin soon is a heavier schedule of fundraising. Democratic officials have laid tentative plans for Biden to begin an active fundraising schedule this summer. And he is expected to meet some major donors to his previous campaign in Washington this week.

Efforts to stand up the campaign intensified in the days ahead of his announcement.

On Tuesday, he named Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a senior White House official, as his campaign manager, and Quentin Fulks, who ran Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock’s successful 2022 race, as his deputy campaign manager.

While Rodriguez will formally manage the campaign, the effort will also be largely guided from the West Wing, where top aides Anita Dunn, Jen O’Malley Dillon, Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti will also play central roles.

He also named a slate of campaign co-chairs, including Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Veronica Escobar of Texas; Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois; DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The operation is expected to be headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, where Biden spends most weekends.

His campaign will begin its first television ad buy Wednesday with ads expected to run in important battleground states including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to a source familiar with the plans. The source declined to detail how much money will be poured into the ad campaign.

The ad buy signals the Biden team’s desire to begin engaging in key battleground states he carried during the 2020 presidential campaign and that would be pivotal to his reelection in 2024.

While Biden’s public facing events Tuesday came from the official White House side, the president engaged behind the scenes with Democratic governors, speaking with them about his campaign message, a campaign spokesperson said.

Additionally, current and former senior officials started reaching out to leaders and grassroots organizers affiliated with coalitions that were key in the 2020 campaign, including women, African Americans, Hispanics, veterans, progressives, LGBTQ individuals, and young people, the spokesperson said.

Biden had long said he planned to run again in 2024, but he had also underscored frequently that he’s a respecter of fate and that he’d have to confer with his family before deciding to throw his hat into the ring.

He told CNN’s Jake Tapper in October that he planned to process whether to run for reelection after the midterm elections.

Biden’s top advisers revealed last fall that they had been making plans to build out a 2024 run. And Vice President Kamala Harris has consistently said she expects to be Biden’s runningmate if he runs for reelection.

Taking on election denialism

Biden, a career politician with decades of experience in Washington, entered his first presidential term in 2021 in the shadow of an insurrection and pervasive election denialism that has trailed him through his time in office. His 2020 presidential campaign was built on a belief that the election was a battle for the soul of the nation following four years under Trump.

And it’s a theme he’s repeatedly tapped into throughout his time in office, going so far as to deliver an urgent rebuke of Trump and those aligned with his attempts to undermine democracy ahead of the 2022 midterms, essentially arguing that the elections were a referendum on election denialism.

Coming out of a once-in-a-generation pandemic and taking office days after a history-making act of public upheaval and violence in Washington, Biden faces two unique challenges coming into the 2024 campaign.

First, the former congressional lawmaker elected to office as the sixth youngest US senator in history will be the first incumbent octogenarian to ask the American public to reappoint him to a term that would end when he’s 86 years old.

CNN reported in August that a campaign is a heavy lift for which not everyone in the family was initially on board. But Jill Biden told CNN during an interview in February she was “all for it.”

In October, the president maintained that voters concerned about his age should see his record of accomplishments since taking office.

“Well, they’re concerned about whether or not I can get anything done. Look what I’ve gotten done,” Biden told Tapper. “Name me a president in recent history that’s gotten done as much as I have in their first two years.”

Biden will also face the unique prospect of possibly facing a former president as his potential challenger.

Trump, who has been indicted on business fraud charges in New York and remains under investigation for his actions as president, would have to defy historical odds to retake the presidency. The only US president to lose a presidential election and then regain the White House four years later was Grover Cleveland. And so far, some Republicans have been tepid about Trump’s presidential bid, especially after how poorly Trump-backed candidates did in key races in last fall’s midterms. Yet at this stage, Trump remains the clear Republican frontrunner, leading his rivals by double digits.

Biden has said he believes he can beat Trump again, but his bid does not allay recent fears from fellow Democrats uncertain about how he’ll fare against a different Republican leading the ticket.

Some top Democrats have privately told CNN they worry this could lead to a more difficult 2024 campaign against a younger, fresher Republican.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Betsy Klein and Donald Judd contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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