WASHINGTON — Almost as soon as he won the presidency in 2020, a question began to hound Joe Biden: Would he run again in 2024?
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that Biden “intends” to seek a second term. In doing so, however, she only deepened the confusion about the president’s political future that has been especially acute in recent weeks, with contradictory reports fueling the unrelenting speculation about the upcoming presidential election.
“He will decide when he decides,” a Democrat close to Biden told CNN last week. If the remark was not especially clarifying, it was nevertheless reflective of the waiting game that has gripped Washington as 2024 creeps closer.
From the very start of his 2020 White House campaign, there have been concerns about Biden’s age (he is 79), which have only deepened with time, and the viability of his vice president, Kamala Harris, who is even less popular than Biden himself, according to some polls. And there was the looming prospect of a third run for the presidency by Donald Trump, with the 2024 election potentially becoming a rematch of 2020.
Biden himself has fueled speculation in ways both intentional and not. Last month he said in a “60 Minutes” interview that he had not yet made a decision whether to seek reelection. “I’m a great respecter of fate,” Biden said. “And so, what I’m doing is I’m doing my job. I’m gonna do that job. And within the time frame that makes sense after this next election cycle here, going into next year, make a judgment on what to do.”
Privately, some Democrats believe that Biden should not run again. Others say that he cannot possibly bow out, especially if Trump is the Republican nominee. So, even as the 2022 midterms loom, the question of 2024 looms even greater.
Several days after the “60 Minutes” interview, Biden attended a White House conference on hunger. During his remarks, he looked for Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., in the audience, seemingly forgetting that she had been killed in a car crash several weeks before.
On social media, the moment distilled worries about Biden’s mental acuity, giving credence to arguments that even if Biden was the right candidate to beat Trump in 2020, to nominate him again would be a grave mistake.
Then again, Biden appears to have made up his mind. On Monday, NBC News reported that he told the Rev. Al Sharpton that he intends to seek reelection, as every president since Lyndon Johnson has done.
“I’m going to do it again,” Biden reportedly told Sharpton at the White House last month, likely in the hopes that Sharpton will help with outreach to Black voters, who were crucial in helping him win the Democratic primary in 2020.
Asked about the NBC News report just hours after it had been published, Jean-Pierre maintained that nothing about the president’s outlook had changed.
“The president has said this himself, he intends to run in 2024,” she said during a White House briefing.
That intention will not be made official until Biden makes the requisite filing with the Federal Election Commission. Trump filed for reelection mere hours after his 2017 inauguration. Nearly two years after he took the oath of office, Biden has still not done so.