President Biden is emphasizing the need to fight for freedom and democracy as he asks a divided nation to hand another four years in office to the nation’s first octogenarian president.
Mr. Biden formally launched his reelection campaign with a video announcement Tuesday, a long-awaited declaration that puts him on the path to a potential remtrhhatch with the man he beat in 2020—former President Donald Trump. The 2024 campaign will play out in an era of extreme political polarization, with both parties fighting over a small number of battleground states and the narrow slice of the electorate that isn’t firmly in one camp or the other.
In the video, Mr. Biden frames the election as a question of “whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer. I know what I want the answer to be and I think you do too. This is not a time to be complacent. That’s why I’m running for re-election.”
The three-minute video opens with images of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, and then references the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade before Mr. Biden says the word: “Freedom,” pointing to the American value as the key to his first term. Vice President Kamala Harris features prominently in the video, which warns against “MAGA extremists.”
Already the oldest president in American history at 80 years old, Mr. Biden would be 86 at the end of a second term. A majority of Americans don’t approve of his performance as president and polls show ample public concern, even among many Democrats, about his age and fitness for office. Mr. Biden has answered questions about his age by saying that people should watch him do the job, and aides argue that his legislative record—including securing funding for the Covid-19 pandemic, and passing broad infrastructure and climate measures—will resonate with voters.
The video kicked off Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign. Mr. Biden plans to address the North America’s Building Trades Unions later in the day, allowing him to highlight his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law.
The 2024 race, which will also determine the House and Senate majorities, will unfold very differently than in 2020, when candidates like Mr. Biden eschewed in-person campaigning. This contest will be much more heavily focused on abortion, as the 2022 midterm elections were, following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Mr. Biden has pledged to protect abortion access, while many Republican candidates support restrictions.
The president faces headwinds as he enters the race. Just 42% of voters approve of the job Mr. Biden is doing compared with 56% who disapprove, according to a new Wall Street Journal poll, numbers that haven’t moved much in over a year. The poll also showed that only 15% of voters think the country is on the right track, and it showed Mr. Biden underwater with voters on nearly all major issues, including his handling of the economy and infrastructure.
Republicans have blamed Mr. Biden for high inflation. They also have criticized him over the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
With the first primaries still months away, Mr. Trump is currently leading the Republican field, as he seeks to win another term after losing to Mr. Biden in 2020. The poll shows that in a direct contest with Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden gets 48% and Mr. Trump 45%. Against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is viewed as likely to launch his campaign in May or June, Mr. Biden gets 45% and Mr. DeSantis 48%.
Mr. Biden and his advisers had considered formally launching his re-election bid toward the beginning of the year, as early as mid-February, but saw little urgency as Mr. Trump’s campaign struggled and the GOP field was slow to materialize. His team started scripting his campaign video before he traveled to Ireland earlier in April and filming began when he returned to Delaware.
The president faces two long-shot primary challengers in author Marianne Williamson and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy. Democrats’ strong showing in the 2022 midterm elections, in which the party maintained control of the Senate, and a desire to avoid a divisive intraparty battle dissuaded any prominent Democrats from challenging Mr. Biden for the nomination.
Tuesday’s video reveal matches the low-key, Rose Garden strategy that Mr. Biden’s campaign will take for now. He is expected to keep his focus on being president, traveling and working in his official capacity, with some fundraising added to his schedule. The approach harks back to the re-election bid from President Barack Obama, who announced his campaign launch in a video in April 2011, but didn’t hold his first official rally for his re-election until May 2012.
This week offers ample opportunities for Mr. Biden to showcase himself from the White House. He is expected to give remarks to a labor union Tuesday, as he seeks to emphasize the benefits of his infrastructure law. On Wednesday he is scheduled to meet with South Korea’s president, and hold a joint news conference and host a state dinner. Next month, he will travel to Japan for the Group of Seven meeting with key allies.
During his State of the Union address, Mr. Biden stressed the need to “finish the job,” emphasizing climate change, child care for workers and raising taxes on the wealthy.
As Election Day draws closer, Mr. Biden is expected to conduct his campaign differently than in 2020. Due to the once-in-a-century pandemic, Mr. Biden spent weeks holed up in his home after securing the nomination and then held a limited number of in-person events and rallies. But with the pandemic waning, he would be expected to have a more robust campaign presence this time.
Mr. Biden began his political career in local government in Delaware and then was elected to the Senate shortly before his 30th birthday. After more than three decades in the Senate, he served two terms as vice president to Mr. Obama, and then won the presidency in 2020. In office, he has overseen legislation to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, invest in the nation’s aging infrastructure and boost domestic manufacturing.
He has also pushed for—but so far has been unable to deliver—voting-rights legislation, a national paid-leave program, support for child care, reforms to the immigration system and efforts to provide free community college.
Mr. Biden’s announcement allows his re-election campaign to begin fundraising and build out a staff, which will work in close partnership with the White House. Mr. Biden will also have a built-in infrastructure from the Democratic National Committee, which will play a key role in organizing supporters in battleground states. The DNC currently has $28.6 million in the bank, according to their latest financial statement.
The campaign is expected to be headquartered in the president’s hometown of Wilmington, Del., and final conversations about staffing are under way. Mr. Biden plans to name Julie Chavez Rodriguez as his campaign manager, people familiar with the discussions said. Ms. Chavez Rodriguez is a White House senior adviser and the granddaughter of the late labor leader Cesar Chavez, whose bust is featured in Mr. Biden’s Oval Office.
Top advisers Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, who managed the 2020 campaign, and Anita Dunn, who was the campaign’s senior adviser, are expected to help lead the effort from the White House.
Mr. Biden’s allies are gearing up in other ways. Top donors to Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign and the DNC, including those who raised roughly $1 million or more, have been invited to meetings with Biden advisers in Washington next week.
The meetings are expected to include a gathering with Mr. Biden, according to people familiar with the plans.
The DNC held a similar event earlier in the month in Scottsdale, Ariz., which included a briefing with pollster David Binder; a presentation about lessons learned in top battleground states such as Georgia, Nevada and Wisconsin; and a session on the Republican presidential field, according to a copy of the agenda reviewed by the Journal.