politics

Biden has gained political capital this fall. He spends it quietly.

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They are also re-engaging donors and focusing on key personnel roles and hires to bolster a unit that could operate outside of the close-knit group that runs White House operations. They are also finalizing a campaign headquarters, with Wilmington, Del. the likely destination, though Philadelphia has not been ruled out.

“We realize there is no shortage of people speculating, but very few people are actually informed about anything of this nature,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said. .

Those in the White House proceeded as Biden will run. His family will play an outsized role in the final decision-making and the initially reluctant first lady Jill Biden is said to have warmed up for another campaign.

There have been initial family discussions on Thanksgiving in Nantucket and more are expected over Christmas. The expected timeline, according to those close to the deliberations, is for the campaign to launch near the end of the first quarter of 2023 – after the president’s State of the Union address and budget presentation.

Those familiar with planning stress that they feel no pressure to go faster. Biden’s world officials believe the Democratic victories in the midterm elections have appeased opponents. Specifically, they argue that the president’s falling momentum has kept potential rivals from moving forward.

Now any discussion inside the White House about the 2024 primary has instead turned to “if he doesn’t show up, what kind of circus is unleashed?” said a Democrat familiar with White House thinking.

The posture reflects a new, more confident mood among Biden and his advisers as he prepares for likely re-election. Talk of whether Biden would step down for a new generation of Democrats has largely died down. This was replaced by maneuvers by the president to position himself for the rigors of another race.

Biden reshaped the upcoming primary calendar in his image by deciding to put South Carolina first. He also traveled to key battleground states, including Arizona, which he avoided before midterms.

“The signals are pretty strong that he’s running,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic operative who ran Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. “I don’t see any reason for a formal announcement anytime soon. But if you look at what he did, he already told us.

Donors are still being directed to the Democratic National Committee and the outside Building Back Together team, and they say there has been no proactive movement to begin fundraising for the campaign. This is typical, some officials say, of the post-election period when candidates and campaigns often give donors pause. But many still saw a surge in calls and emails from Biden aides and party allies – and hundreds of invitations were sent out to the various White House and other related holiday parties in Washington to keep supporters engaged. .

Biden also tested new variants on a possible re-election pitch that combines the coming effects of three huge spending programs involving roads, computer chips and climate protection. And according to two people familiar with recent conversations, senior advisers to the president who will be closely involved in guiding an eventual campaign have called party operatives in recent weeks to start conversations about convention planning and construction. of a nationwide operation on the ground, something that was scaled down in the 2020 campaign due to the limitations imposed by the pandemic.

“He has plenty of time,” said Joel Benenson, the veteran Democratic strategist. He suggested Biden could use the coming months to further establish his position on key economic priorities and downplay the need for immediate action in 2024 “in a way that could be very Bidenian and connect with families. and people”.

Of the timeline the president is facing, Benenson added, “It’s the political conversation insiders are having. I just don’t see any reason to speed it up – from anyone.

While Biden may have more time to announce a re-election bid, it’s not endless. Biden aides have often pointed to the timing of President Barack Obama’s re-election announcement as a guide. It happened on April 4, 2011. But the difference, some aides grudgingly admitted, was that there were never any questions about whether Obama would run again.

Senior Democrats believe that if Biden were to wait too long to make an announcement, it would renew and accelerate questions about his age (he turned 80 late last month). They also warn that the favorable political environment he currently enjoys could change quickly, although White House aides are optimistic about the work being done and how it is shaping the landscape.

“The same coalition that President Biden built to expand the Democratic roster in 2020 fueled our historic midterm victories, including unprecedented youth turnout,” Bates said. “At the same time, the president galvanized independent voters with a message widely embraced across the party, highlighting the differences between his values ​​and the agenda of ultra MAGA Republicans.”

Biden aides and allies are loath to publicly discuss names, but in recent weeks the White House has taken subtle steps to try to elevate former President Donald Trump by addressing the eruption of adverse scenarios involving him. Many of Biden’s closest advisers anxiously believe that if the president goes against another offer, it would leave a shaky and untested field of suitors to fend off Trump’s return. Others aligned with the effort openly relish the idea of ​​the former president maintaining a presence on the political landscape.

“Trump is doing a damn good job of making sure the Republican Party will be a shitshow,” said Dick Harpootlian, a longtime South Carolina Democrat and one of Biden’s earliest and staunchest supporters.

Trippi noted that the wider GOP has the same problem it has now for three cycles.

“They can’t win with him and they can’t win without him,” he said, noting that if Trump’s MAGA base didn’t show up and a challenger like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had to defeating Trump in a primary, “God bless them because that will be the last thing they do.”

“Does anyone really believe that Trump could lose the nomination and then tell his base that he just and squarely lost so get out there and vote for the Republican nominee?” he underlined. “So let them have this fight, because I don’t see a winner coming out of this anyway.”

Biden has important decisions to make regarding the structure of a re-election bid.

Chief among them is how to balance operations between the White House and campaign headquarters when the latter finally launches. Veterans of past presidential reelection campaigns note that much of what the campaign is judged on comes from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., making it essential that trusted aides are in place and communication is smooth.

“There was some limited action, starting with the president’s time,” said longtime Obama adviser David Axelrod. “There’s been a lot of cross-pollination between the campaign and the White House.”

What Biden seems almost certain to avoid, as of now, is a high profile primary challenger. Those discussed as alternatives, California Governor Gavin Newsom and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, among others, notably reinforced their support for him. And Biden’s game to promote South Carolina to the lead was tantamount to a show of force to close all avenues of a long-term challenge.

“A point of risk has always been the early momentum of insurgent campaigns and Biden pretty much ended all of that,” said Jim Hodges, the former governor of South Carolina.

Democrats who still doubted the success of another Biden run have come out of conversations with his aides convinced he will run one anyway. And Hodges said he’s heard the same thing privately from elected Democrats he’s been casually in touch with for months.

“Now their support and belief that he’s going to run is even stronger,” he said.

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