Democrats who want to run for president in 2024 are approaching the time to build an organization.
But they may be reluctant to jump in the race if President Joe Biden plans to run for reelection.
If he keeps Democrats waiting too long, other possible contenders may have to start running or get left behind.
Democrats who want to run for president in 2024 are approaching the time when they need to start raising money, building an organization, and honing their messages. But there's one major obstacle for all of them — President Joe Biden.
"No one's going to get in before Biden will, before Biden makes his decision," said Rep. Seth Moulton, of Massachusetts, who ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
Biden has said his intention is to run for reelection, and he expects to make his official decision early next year. That timing would be in keeping with the last four presidents, who all announced their reelection campaigns in the spring during the year preceding the election.
But if he keeps Democrats waiting too long, other possible contenders may be left with a choice: Start running or get left behind.
A delayed open race without Biden, starting in perhaps June or beyond, would undermine other Democratic candidates' ability to fundraise, campaign and get their message out — all while Republicans will likely be holding primary debates and town halls and getting media exposure, said one Democratic strategist who has worked on multiple presidential campaigns.
"Most candidates who would run in '24 if Biden doesn't would like to get out of the box in the spring of next year," said the strategist, who declined to be named to speak candidly. "Could you survive if you waited till June, July? Maybe. That doesn't sound optimal to me. But I think post Labor Day of '23, I think, is disastrous."
First Lady Jill Biden reportedly told French President Emmanuel Macron at last week's state dinner that she and her husband, President Joe Biden, are ready for his reelection campaign, The New York Times reported.
But Biden faces questions about his age as the oldest US president ever and his electability. He has proven he can beat Donald Trump, but there's no guarantee that the twice-impeached, legally challenged former president will be the Republican nominee.
Other possible Republican contenders have shown they aren't intimidated by Trump, even if they haven't declared candidacies yet. That means Biden could end up facing, say Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in a 2024 campaign that will likely look far different from the COVID-era 2020 campaign, with more in-person visibility and media questions. The prospect of Biden facing a younger GOP candidate has concerned some of his aides, CNN reported.
"If the country falls into a recession next spring and Biden has a rocky moment/incident or two and his job approval falls into the 30s again, some long-shot but credible candidate might give it a go," the strategist told Insider.
A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
'The presidential cycle has begun.'
During 2020's Democratic primary, Pete Buttigieg, now the Transportation Secretary, and Kamala Harris, now vice president, were among the early birds in the race, announcing their bids in January 2019. Sens. Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren formally announced campaigns in February 2019 after Warren launched an exploratory committee on December 31, 2018.
Biden was the 20th Democrat to join that crowded field in April 2019.
"January '23… we're on. The presidential cycle has begun," Sheila Krumholz, executive director of OpenSecrets, told Insider. "All of the focus for the media, certainly, but also really for the nation, turns to the next consequential election."
There's no set date when candidates must declare, although state filing deadlines for ballot access would start around November 2023 and early state contests in February 2024, if the 2020 schedule is any indication.
Launching an early campaign helps, both for setting up field offices and fundraising. Potential candidates can raise money while "testing the waters" for a possible bid, but donors may withhold contributions until they hear from Biden, Krumholz said. They can also raise money through a super PAC, but those funds will be off limits once they declare their candidacy.
"It takes time to not just fundraise, but to assemble your team," she said.
If Biden delays a decision until after May 2023, Democrats who wait for him and can't self-fund will be disadvantaged, said another Democratic strategist, who has worked on multiple congressional campaigns.
"Beyond the money, the time might be an even bigger challenge," the strategist said. "Each day that passes where you're not building a campaign infrastructure to mobilize voters and communicate with them is a day that you can't get back. There's a reason why a late entrant in recent history hasn't been successful on either side of the aisle."
After months of speculation about his future, Biden — then the vice prsident — determined in October 2015 that he had exceeded the window for mounting a winning 2016 campaign, nearly six months after the death of his son Beau from brain cancer. "Unfortunately, I believe we're out of time," he said then during a speech at the White House.
Moulton said Biden as president can "wait as long as he wants" to announce his candidacy and he disputed the idea that other potential candidates would be harmed by a late launch. Asked whether he wants Biden to run, Moulton deferred to the president. He also noted that Biden has "surprised us often" with his campaign decisions.
"Everyone thought he was gonna run in 2016, and then everyone thought he wasn't gonna run in 2020," Moulton said.
Biden's 'own timetable'
Other Democrats who ran against Biden in the 2020 primary said there's no rush for Biden to decide.
"Joe Biden can make his own decision about when he wants to announce and it will be just fine," Warren told Insider recently. Asked about other Democratic candidates, Warren responded: "What about 'em? Joe Biden - as far as I know - he's running."
The president has "earned the right to have his own timetable," Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Colorado Democrat, told Insider.
"If he's not going to run, my expectation is that he'll make that decision fairly quickly," he added.
There's also the chance that Biden waiting until the summer to bow out, severely impacting the the ability for some potential candidates to organize, "could be something they do on purpose" if he and party leaders have a favorite to replace him, Krumholz said. That strategy would clearly designate the candidate as the party's chosen replacement for mega-donors and party allies to get behind, she said.
"Being strategic about when they announce this and being ready with a one-two punch — 'Biden's out, but so and so's in' — can affect the opportunity, the chances for other candidates," she said.
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