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Why Biden World Cares — A Lot — About When He Announces His Reelection


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Biden’s notorious dithering has again been put on vivid display around the exhaustive questions about the timing of his reelection announcement. But it’s not just the president who sees the pluses and minuses of launching a full campaign roughly 18 months out from the November presidential election. Inside the White House, and even among his tight-knit circle, there’s been disagreement over when to formally commence.

One camp argues, essentially, why push? Nobody of note in the party is going to challenge Biden and he can appear above the fray if he just keeps being … president. They point to the images of his daring voyage into Kyiv, Ukraine. More recently, Biden was greeted like a hero in his motherland of Ireland. Some around the president say little he does as a candidate over the next couple months is likely to top the priceless, even emotional, optics. Donors are getting restless — but really, when are they not?

“What matters is this: Biden is going to run and he’s going to win. The exact date he ‘officially’ announces is utterly meaningless,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.).

Amid all the breathlessness, several Democrats outside the White House told POLITICO they are fine with him waiting until late summer or even the fall. They point to the chaotic Republican primary and cable TV chyron-dominating legal morass swirling around former President Donald Trump as reasons for Biden to keep his powder dry. Some noted the awkwardness of his possible relaunch video Tuesday, the first day of a Manhattan trial over allegations Trump raped a woman decades ago. Which one, they ask facetiously, is the story that will get more eyeballs?

Meanwhile, other potential Republican candidates — like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence — may not make their own announcements for weeks or months yet. Biden’s schedule next week, which includes a state dinner for the president of South Korea and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, also doesn’t lend itself to an obvious run of political momentum. And a potentially messy fight over the debt ceiling this summer could further drag down Biden’s poll numbers.

Now, as he spends the weekend at Camp David, the political world is again waiting on whether the announcement indeed comes Tuesday, the four-year anniversary of his 2020 announcement. Few outside Washington are clamoring for it. Poll after poll shows Democrats’ mixed appetite for another run, even as a large majority of the party approves of the job he’s doing.

On a macro level, little will change if Biden puts out the video announcing his bid next week — and then begins bombarding supporters with digital overtures for contributions. Indeed, much of the impetus for doing so amounts to housekeeping.

Along with raising money, Biden’s aides will begin the process in earnest to build out a formal operation. There will be one-off events. He’ll continue to travel for fundraisers. His aides don’t anticipate he’ll mount any kind of sustained political campaign so early in the process.

What the launch could do is provide some in Biden world and the broader party comfort just to get the vacillation over with.

“It’s just good for the party to finally be definitive about it,” said Democratic strategist Mark Longabaugh. “It just brings clarity to your mission. Now we know we’re running. Now we can hire a campaign manager. Now we can get the office in Wilmington. Now we can start to move. And I just think that will be very good for Biden and the party.”

Some in Biden’s inner circle have been amused by the frantic speculation about the date. Yes, Tuesday is the anniversary of his 2019 campaign launch, which turned out rather well. And, yes, Biden is a little superstitious. But Biden is also often tardy in making big decisions and few would be stunned if the timeline slipped again.

For months, those in Biden’s orbit and many other Democrats have begun to build a campaign apparatus — including a likely headquarters in the president’s beloved hometown of Wilmington, Del. — while waiting for the commander in chief to get to “yes.” Some longtime friends have privately wondered if he might not. They see his age, the toll the job takes on any president, and see Biden grow more easily tired and prone to verbal stumbles.

But most have always believed he would sign off. Biden has spent more of his life seeking the presidency than just about any politician in history. His record is strong, they argue. And the specter of Trump looms, as does the strongly held belief that Biden is the only Democrat who can beat him.

Those who favor jumping in now make two primary arguments. First, announcing a campaign would finally silence the questions — from reporters and Democrats alike — as to whether Biden will run, muzzling a storyline with the potential to become a distraction if it dragged on for many more months.

“You folks in the media have been following him and speculating, ‘Is he, isn’t he?’” Longabaugh said. “And that puts all of those stories to bed. Now he’s in, he’s announced, he’s filed his paperwork, he’s running. It’s my own personal view that a lot of those stories were just a distraction. And now those distractions are gone.”

But mostly, it is about money. Several senior White House aides have noted any month lost for fundraising can’t simply be made up at the end. Even if Biden is a fundraising juggernaut, delays in starting will lose him dollars at the end, they argue. And even if a full-on campaign doesn’t begin for months, the buck-raking can begin soon. And it will be useful.

“The more time you have, the less rushed you feel,” said Patrick Martin, an Obama administration alum and aide to former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). “They have hit the point where it makes sense to get the formal campaign started.”


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