Joe Biden is less than a year into his presidency and already his party is fractured over the question of whether he will – or should – run again in 2024.
“Biden and aides tell allies he is running in 2024 amid growing Democratic fears,” reads the headline of a Washington Post story detailing the machinations over whether the 79-year-old President is, in fact, planning to run again.
(My favorite part of the Post story is that after assurance after assurance that Biden is in fact running, they drop this quote: “One Democrat involved in campaigns said they couldn’t think of a single person they had spoken to in the last month who considers the possibility of Biden running again to be a real one.”)
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki doubled down on Biden’s plans to run telling reporters, “Yes, that’s his intention.”
The is-he-or-isn’t-he news cycle comes hard on the heels of a series of stories – led by this one on CNN – detailing growing concerns over how Vice President Kamala Harris is handling the job of vice president and whether she really will be the frontrunner many expected her to be whenever Biden does step aside.
Add it up and you get a whole lot of nerves and confusion – all for an election that is almost three years away.
And, at root, these stories raise two questions.
There’s the obvious one: Is Biden, who will be almost 82 by Election Day 2024, going to run again?
And the less obvious one: Is a Biden 2024 candidacy the best thing for the Democratic Party’s chances at holding the White House?
The first question is utterly unknowable. I assume Biden hasn’t even considered making a decision about it yet.
The second question is more interesting to me – since it speaks to where Democrats think they are and what they need.
On the one hand, Biden would be running in 2024 as an incumbent – almost always a good thing – and a known commodity to the public. That, plus Harris’ struggles to adapt to the VP role, suggest Biden may well be the party’s best choice.
On the other, Biden’s approval rating is stuck in the low 40s. He has struggled to bridge the divide between the liberal and moderate wings of the party. And again, he will be in his early 80s when his first term ends.
Either way, the debate is a bad one for Democrats. It highlights the uncertainty built into Biden’s political future – one of the inherent perils of nominating and electing the oldest person ever to be president.
Political parties thrive on stability and continuity. Knowing who the leader is (and will be) helps organize everything and everyone below him or her. When the top is uncertain, it’s uncertainty all the way down.
And, at the moment, that’s where Democrats find themselves.
The Point: While Democrats have some time to figure it all out, having this debate in public is not a great look.