President Biden has formally announced his campaign for re-election in 2024, asking Americans for four years to “finish this job”, possibly setting up an extraordinary rematch with Donald Trump.
Biden said: “When I ran for president four years ago, I said we were in a battle for the soul of America – and we still are.”
Announcing his intention on Tuesday, April 25th, 2023 with a three-minute video, opening with pulsing images of the US Capitol attack, Biden warned that the US remains under threat from the anti-democratic forces unleashed by his predecessor, who he beat in 2020.
Biden launched his re-election campaign on the fourth anniversary of his return to politics in 2019, when he declared his third presidential run. Since then, the political landscape has changed.
The US is still grappling with the scars of a pandemic that killed more than 1.1 million and with inflation that has eased from historic highs but remains painful. Americans remain deeply divided, convulsed by the loss of federal abortion rights, near-weekly mass shootings and worsening climate disasters.
Already the oldest president, Biden would be 86 before the end of a second term, nearly a decade older than Ronald Reagan was when he left the White House in 1989. Trump is 76.
In his video, Biden warned that “Maga extremists” – Trump’s slogan is “Make America Great Again” – were working to strip away “bedrock freedoms”.
“Cutting social security that you’ve paid for your entire life while cutting taxes for the very wealthy,” Biden said. “Dictating what healthcare decisions women can make, banning books and telling people who they can love. All while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.”
Biden is dogged by low approval ratings and concerns about his age. Only a quarter of Americans want him to run again, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Among Democrats, that figure is 50%. Should Biden win the nomination, as expected, most Democrats will support him.
Hours after making his candidacy official, Biden was greeted by chants of “four more years” during remarks to union workers at a conference in Washington DC.
“Our economic plan is working,” the president said in a speech rife with references to his working-class upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “Let’s finish the job,” he declared.
Biden has made clear he plans to run on accomplishments secured in the first half of his presidency, when Democrats had majorities in Congress.
Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, delivering financial assistance to those hit hard by Covid. He also approved a $1 trillion infrastructure bill; signed the first major federal gun safety bill in nearly 30 years; pursued initiatives to both treat veterans exposed to toxic burn pits and boost the semiconductor industry; and made Ketanji Brown Jackson the first Black woman on the supreme court.
Perhaps Biden’s most significant legislative achievement to date is the Inflation Reduction Act, the most significant US response to the climate crisis. While Biden’s policies are broadly popular, he has struggled to earn credit. He has spent the last few months attempting to sell his economic policies and rally Americans before a showdown with congressional Republicans over the federal debt limit.
On the world stage, Biden has rallied a global coalition behind Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion while seeking to strengthen US defenses against China. The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, however, was among the lowest points of Biden’s presidency, even as he fulfilled a promise to end America’s longest war.
Republicans greeted Biden’s campaign announcement by assailing his handling of immigration and the economy. “Biden is so out-of-touch that after creating crisis after crisis, he thinks he deserves another four years,” said Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee. “If voters let Biden ‘finish the job’, inflation will continue to skyrocket, crime rates will rise, more fentanyl will cross our open borders, children will continue to be left behind, and American families will be worse off.”
In his campaign video, Biden warned that individual freedoms are under attack by far-right Republicans who have trampled reproductive, voting and LGBTQ+ rights. “This is not a time to be complacent,” he said. “I know America. I know we’re good and decent people.”
After nearly a half-century in public life including 36 years as a senator from Delaware and eight years as the vice-president to Barack Obama, Biden called himself a “bridge” to the next generation of Democrats. But only two fringe candidates have challenged him for the nomination: the self-help author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist Robert F Kennedy Jr.
The Republican field continues to grow. Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador, has entered the race. The South Carolina senator Tim Scott has taken steps to run. The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, is widely expected to announce soon. Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-president, is weighing a run.
Trump announced his candidacy after the midterms in November. He and Biden both face federal investigations over their handling of classified information. In Biden’s case, documents were discovered at his office and home. His lawyers have stressed they are cooperating.
In his video, Biden said: “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.”