While no clear challenger has emerged to US President Joe Biden in the Democratic Party, there are indications that the Democrats want a fresh face 2024.
Biden has given enough signals so far that he intends to seek a second term in 2024 presidential election. However, only 37 per cent of Democrats want him to seek a second term, according to a poll by AP and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The percentage is down from 52 per cent in the weeks before last year's midterm elections in which Democrats defeated the Republican Party's expected Red Wave.
Biden is already the oldest serving US president. He will be 82 at the time of re-election and will be 86 at the end of second term if reelected.
Despite the low approval for second term, Biden does not have any challenger for 2024. Instead, some of the most probable opponents like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna have already endorsed him.
What has Biden said for a second term?
It's natural for a sitting president to seek re-election but the question over Biden's second term primarily stem from his age.
While Biden has good health reports for now, there are concerns whether he would retain the physical and mental sharpness to deal with the rigour of the most powerful electoral office in the world. He would be 86 by the end of his second term if reelected.
"Our intention is to run again," said Biden after the 2022 mid-term elections, noting that his family supports another campaign. He said his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, has already counselled him not to "walk away" from the "very important" things he's doing on the job.
Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris also said that Biden intends to seek reelection and she intends to be his running mate.
Biden "has said he intends to run for reelection as president, and I intend to run with him as vice president of the United States," said Harris to NBC News.
At an event last month, Biden was greeted with chants of "four more years" in a sign of support for a second term. Speaking to the Democratic National Committee after a strong jobs report last month, Biden asked, "Let me ask you a simple question. Are you with me?"
As a grinning Biden asked the question in Philadelphia, hundreds of party leaders from around the country interrupted him with cries of "Four more years! Four more years!"
Disconnect between Democrat leaders, voters
While Biden largely remains unchallenged in the Democratic Party, the poll cited above shows only a little above one-third of Democratic Party voters want him to run again. This has been as a disconnect between the voters and party leadership.
Many worry about Biden's age. Others are upset about the Biden administration's messy withdrawal from Afghanistan. And the party's progressive wing has never been enthusiastic about Biden, who is perceived as a moderate, despite his lengthy list of achievements that includes heightened competition with China, leadership in the Ukraine War response, strong jobs reports, and an unexpectedly good mid-term election performance.
The White House cast Biden's perceived weakness within his own party as an exaggerated narrative that he has repeatedly proven wrong.
"We're aware pundits' attitude toward President Biden is unchanged from before he earned the nomination faster than anyone since 2004, won the most votes in American history, built the strongest legislative record in generations and led the best midterm outcome for a new Democratic president in 60 years. Based on comparing the accuracy of our predictions versus theirs, we are happy for this dynamic to continue," said Biden spokesman Andrew Bates.
Still, there's a risk of a disconnect between rank-and-file Democrats and the party's establishment. While voters are signaling unease about the prospect of another Biden campaign, Democratic governors, senators and congressional representatives are virtually unanimous in supporting Biden's reelection.
One exception may be New Hampshire, a small swing state whose electoral votes could be critical in a tight general election. The state has challenged Biden before. Voters here served Biden an embarrassing fifth-place finish in the 2020 Democratic primary.
Biden still remains best-placed Democratic candidate
Despite what the poll shows, there is no challenger to Biden on the horizon. So far, only Democratic activist and author Marianne Williamson has entered the 2024 primary field. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late New York senator and known for railing against vaccines, met with New Hampshire voters on Friday. He's also leaning toward a bid. Neither of them are said to have serious chances at beating Biden for nomination.
On the other hand, the likes of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Biden's fiercest primary challenger in 2020, has vowed to back the president in 2024. So has Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whose appearance at last year's New Hampshire's Democratic convention still comes up in conversation. California Rep. Ro Khanna, a progressive favorite, has also said he would not challenge Biden.
Biden supporters also note that some of the nation's most popular two-term presidents confronted opposition from within their own parties ahead of their reelection.
"We had a lot of work to do, but the fundamentals were there," said Stephanie Cutter, who helped managed Obama's 2012 reelection.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, attributed Biden's political challenges to Democratic leaders who haven't done enough to promote his accomplishments.
Cooper said, "The real disconnect right now is communication. President Biden has accomplished in two years what many presidents would only hope to do in eight. His success has meant real wins for working families. People are going to begin to see real improvement in their lives. It's our job to make sure that they know it was President Biden who got it done. Democrats came together once before in 2020 to ask him to do a job, and he accomplished it — he beat President Trump. And now he's gonna do it again."
However, there is the issue of low approval ratings. Biden has an approval of rating of 43.8 per cent at the moment, according to polling and election news site FiveThirtyEight. At this point in their first terms, Barack Obama had rating of 47.6, George W Bush had 56, Bill Clinton 44.7. The only president in the past three decades with ratings lower than Biden was Donald Trump at 42.7 who lost reelection bid.
Biden allies planning for 2024 campaign
Privately, allies and supporter of Biden have already started working towards the 2024 campaign even without his official announcement.
Biden's advisers have not waited for his official reelection announcement, already spending weeks making staffing arrangements and readying lines of political attacks against Republicans seen as early presidential front-runners, including Trump, who launched his campaign in November, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Alan Clendenin, a DNC member from Florida, said Biden has strengthened the economy, reestablished US global standing and promoted inclusive values — the opposite of what Trump and DeSantis stand for.
"They predicted gloom and doom. He's proved them all wrong," said Clendenin, who kicked off a DNC Southern caucus meeting by noting that Florida has begun lagging behind other states in key policy areas and joking of its governor, "That's what happened when you're led by the devil."
Moreover, Biden has emerged much stronger after the 2022 mid-term election results. The poor performance of the Republican Party was blamed on Trump and, as the contest became Biden versus Trump, the better performance of Democrats was also seen as a victory for Biden.
After 2022 mid-term results, Biden is in a better position than any other president in decades, including Democratic Party's icons like Barack Obama.
"Since 1922, there have been three previous instances of the president’s party gaining (or losing no) Senate seats and losing fewer than 10 House seats in the president’s first midterm," reported CNN on the historic nature of mid-term results.
The Washington Examiner noted that the mid-term results would propel Biden into 2024 re-election cycle in a position better than Obama and Clinton.
"The midterm election results strengthened President Joe Biden’s hand and weakened former President Donald Trump’s. That is the starting point for the road to the White House," noted Examiner, adding that Biden appeared to have performed better in mid-term polls than Obama and Clinton, both of whom went on to serve second terms.
The Examiner further noted, "Biden was the big Democratic winner. He was able to hold together the anti-Trump coalition enough to stave off defeat in a number of competitive races. His campaign travel schedule, anti-MAGA [Make America Great Again] messaging, and predictions that the race would swing back toward the Democrats in the end appear to be vindicated. He looks stronger than Clinton or Obama did the day after their first midterm elections, and they both won a second term."
(With AP inputs)