Why Joe Biden hasn’t announced he’s running again – yet
JOE BIDEN is to be sad. On April 10, at the White House Easter Egg Roll, the president told an interviewer that he planned to host “at least three or four more” of the annual events. Under pressure, he said he planned to run for a second term as president. A few days later, fresh from a four-day visit to Ireland, he vowed to formally announce “fairly soon”. Now it looks like he could announce next week. Donald Trump announced his bid for the Republican nomination in November; several others in his party have followed suit. Why has Mr. Biden been reluctant to start his own campaign?
In America, there is an important difference between mocking a presidential campaign and launching it. Only once a candidate has been formally nominated can they officially start raising money. Political action committees can raise money on behalf of prospective candidates before then, but there are limits to the amount they can receive. There is no “substitute” for the money that campaigns raise on their own, says Michael Toner, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, which manages election finances. In order to hire staff, prepare for debates and the like, a campaign has to tap into its own coffers.
As soon as a campaign starts to collect money, it is their duty to publish it. Before the election year, withdrawals must be reported quarterly (come 2024 candidates must report them monthly). Such dates may influence a candidate’s decision as to when to nominate. Publishing two weeks’ worth of fundraising when competitors have been at it for three months could give the impression that their campaign lacks momentum.
But so far Mr. Biden’s signs seem to have fended off any primary challengers. (Two Democratic candidates have entered the race but are not considered viable candidates: a young Robert Kennedy peddles anti-vaccination guff and conspiracy theories; Marianne Williamson is a guru (self-help.) That means Mr. Biden doesn’t have to worry about fundraising comparisons. . But at the same time he doesn’t have to join the fray early and “it will be easy [the president] to raise a war chest even starting in August or September,” says Mr Toner – all the money he raises can go towards the general election.
On the other hand, Republican candidates have a crowded field to clear. Their first primary debate is set for August 2023, and to qualify, they may have to show they’ve hit fundraising or turnout targets. Since Mr. Trump, the front player, is engaging in one accusation and may face others, their contest is getting messy. Mr. Biden may not want to distract attention from his rivals’ problems with his own announcement – or make himself, rather than Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican challenger, a target for Mr. Trump .
The president has another advantage: like all incumbents, he can unofficially campaign from the White House, and fly around the country on Air Force One. His state of the state address in February was widely seen as an appeal to undecided voters, reminding them of everything he did in his first term. During a three-week “Investing in America” tour this spring, he and his officials spoke in nearly 30 states and territories, detailing the infrastructure and jobs who created his policies.
A personal reason can also explain the president’s reluctance. Mr. Biden has a habit of drawing big conclusions; contributors have described the Socratic “journey” he takes before taking action. He withdrew his decision to run in 2020, announcing at the end of April 2019, and before he started his campaign in 2008, he had been celebrating his intention for months.
Mr. Biden is 80 years old, which worries Americans: in a March poll, conducted by SSRS for CNN, two-thirds said he lacked the “stamina and sharpness” for effective service. Clearly, time is not on Mr. Biden’s side. But in an era where American politics is often charged, even menacing, the president’s political superpowers in his ability to keep things a little boring. Republican voters appear to be rallying around the 76-year-old Mr. Trump. Mr. Biden has done his best to avoid Mr. Trump’s temptation, but before long he has to join the fray. ■