Within hours of President Joe Biden announcing his 2024 re-election campaign on Tuesday, the White House was reporting for clean-up duty.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre rushed to tweet that she can “confirm” Biden would serve the entirety of a second term shortly after she created an air of uncertainty when telling a journalist she was “just not gonna get ahead of the president” on whether her boss would stay eight years.
The headaches continued on Wednesday, when cameras caught Biden using a cheat sheet — again — for a rare press conference, showing that he knew in advance the topic about which a reporter was going to ask him.
“The president’s cheat sheet yesterday is alarming. Not only does the president need it — and scripted answers and the photo and name of the ‘reporters’ and their questions — but legacy media cooperating with Team Biden to stage ‘press conference’ two days after re-election video,” tweeted conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, a former Reagan administration official.
Neither hiccup is bound to dismantle Biden’s nascent campaign, but they do underscore concerns, even among Democrats, about the president’s age and fitness to serve a full eight years in office. Already the oldest person to be president at 80 and prone to gaffes, Biden would be 86 at the end of a second term.
“Concerns about age — both in terms of fitness for office and being out of touch with the moment — are legitimate, as Mr. Biden acknowledged in an interview in February with ABC News. His standard line, repeated in that interview, is: “The only thing I can say is, ‘Watch me,’” said an editorial published by The New York Times ahead of Biden’s announcement. “But Mr. Biden has given voters very few chances to do just that — to watch him — and his refusal to engage with the public regularly raises questions about his age and health.”
Just the fact that Biden opted to declare his candidacy with a video has opened the president up to attacks, echoing political broadsides during the 2020 campaign when critics liked to say Biden ran his election effort while hiding in his basement.
Every generation has a moment where they have had to stand up for democracy. To stand up for their fundamental freedoms. I believe this is ours.
That’s why I’m running for reelection as President of the United States. Join us. Let’s finish the job. https://t.co/V9Mzpw8Sqy pic.twitter.com/Y4NXR6B8ly
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 25, 2023
“This way he can do it four or five times so he gets it right,” former President Donald Trump, who announced his own 2024 campaign months ago in front of supporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, teased during an interview with Newsmax.
Voters don’t appear to be overly enthusiastic about a Biden 2024 campaign. A mere 26% of Americans and 47% of Democrats want Biden to run again, according to a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. The same poll found 78% of Democrats say they approve of Biden’s job performance, and 81% said they would at least probably support Biden if he becomes the nominee in the general election.
A different poll, this one from Fox News, found one high-profile candidate challenging Biden for the Democratic Party’s nomination getting double-digit numbers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, got 19% support among Democratic primary numbers. Biden received 62% support while self-help author Marianne Williamson trailed both men at 9%.
Still, there are some bright spots for Biden, even if the polls don’t currently show it. In making his case to voters, Biden can tout victories with infrastructure, COVID relief, chip manufacturing, and the climate. He received an early endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is eschewing a third straight campaign for president. And Republicans may take a hit in the 2024 election as polls show roll-backs on abortion access to be broadly unpopular.
What lies ahead could make or break not only Biden’s electoral prospects, but also the well-being of the country. Like Trump, Biden is under investigation for his handling of classified documents. There is the ongoing war in Ukraine, in which the United States has pumped tens of billions of dollars to prop up the fight against Russian invaders.
Then there is the looming debt ceiling crisis. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen notified Congress in January that the United States had crossed the statutory limit of roughly $31.4 trillion and advised that her agency take “extraordinary measures” so the government could continue to pay its bills, but only in the short term. Experts have warned of a default this summer that could cripple the U.S. economy without a deal to raise the borrowing limit for the federal government.
The GOP-led House on Wednesday narrowly passed legislation that would suspend the debt ceiling through March 31, 2024 or until an increase in debt of $1.5 trillion — whichever comes first — in exchange for a host of spending cuts. But that proposal may not get far, as Biden and his fellow Democrats insist on a “clean” debt ceiling bill separate from any spending cuts or any policy concessions.
Biden chose to stick with Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate despite her poor approval ratings and inability to shake the view by detractors that she did not take seriously her role as leader of the Biden administration’s efforts to tackle the migration challenge at the U.S.-Mexico border. As reported by Axios, the White House and Biden’s campaign are working to revamp her image.
Perhaps the most personal obstacle Biden faces is the intense focus on his family.
Biden’s adult son, Hunter Biden, is facing a criminal probe by the Justice Department. Investigators have been looking into Biden’s foreign business dealings, tax affairs, and more. While the younger Biden has insisted he will be cleared of wrongdoing, an Internal Revenue Service agent has come forward, seeking to make protected whistleblower disclosures to Congress concerning allegations that the inquiry has been tainted by lies and politics.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are conducting their own investigations into the Biden family, raising concerns about suspicious payments and links to foreign countries in a possible scheme involving as many as a dozen relatives.
“There’s not going to be anybody left for a Christmas picture if the DOJ did their job and went in there and indicted everyone that has any type of fingerprints involved in this influence peddling scheme,” House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-KY) told Fox News last weekend.