President Joe Biden announced his bid for reelection Tuesday morning, setting himself up yet again as the Democratic Party’s best available bulwark against an increasingly authoritarian Republican Party led by Donald Trump rather than as a deliverer of liberals’ loftiest dreams.
“When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are,” Biden says in a three-minute-long video announcing his candidacy released Tuesday morning. “The question we are facing is 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.”
The 80-year-old Biden is all but certain to be the oldest person ever to win a major party’s presidential nomination and will face only minimal opposition in a primary. Victory there seems likely to set up a rematch with Trump himself, if not another one of the “MAGA Republicans” Biden spends a significant chunk of the launch video warning about.
“Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take those bedrock freedoms away,” Biden says in the video. “Cutting Social Security that you’ve paid for your entire life while cutting taxes for the very wealthy. Dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love. All while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.”
He will run for reelection arguing he has fulfilled the promises of his 2020 bid: renewing a degree of bipartisanship in Washington while also making significant progress on progressive priorities like fighting climate change and combating gun violence; beating back conservative threats to American democracy while steering the country to the other side of a pandemic; and keeping the Democratic Party acceptable to the white working-class voters who wield excess power in American politics.
Biden chose to announce his bid on the four-year anniversary of his 2020 campaign launch, when he invoked racist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a reason to run. His video on Tuesday opens with images of a new symbol of the threats to American democracy: the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. And yet again, Biden is focused more on the broad threats to the country’s foundations as opposed to specific achievements of his first term or goals for his second.
“That’s been the work of my first term: to fight for our democracy,” Biden says in the video.
Shortly after Biden’s announcement, second gentleman Doug Emhoff joined a call with LGBTQ+ community leaders to ask for their help on the campaign.
“You were there for us in 2020. We need you there again,” Emhoff said on a Zoom call organized by the Democratic National Committee. “We need you again so we can finish the job.”
He echoed Biden’s campaign pitch: The country has been in “a battle for the soul of this nation,” and Biden is fighting for freedom and democracy. The fight is far from over as extremists in the Republican Party try to take the country backward by gutting Social Security and Medicare, taking away health care decisions from women, prioritizing gun rights over children, and trying to curtail voting rights.
A DNC organizer ended the call by telling LGBTQ+ leaders that the biggest action they can take for now is publicly endorsing Biden and spreading the hashtag #FinishTheJob across social media.
Shortly after that call, Emhoff joined another DNC call with Native American community leaders and made the same pitch.
Biden will face significant but not insurmountable headwinds as he launches his campaign. His approval rating remains middling, with just 42.5% of the country approving of his job performance in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls. A majority of the country ― 52.8% ― does not approve. Concerns about his advanced age and mental acuity stretch even into his own party, driving even a significant percentage of Democrats to say they hoped he would not run for reelection in public surveys.
Inflation, while slower than a year ago, remains a top concern of the public, and surveys show voters believe Biden has not handled the challenge well. While unemployment rates are at record lows in many parts of the country and wages have grown for the lowest-income workers, overall wage growth has not kept up with inflation, leading to a widespread perception the economy is in recession.
Fighting those headwinds will fall in part to Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the 45-year-old granddaughter of legendary labor leader Cesar Chavez. Chavez Rodriguez, a former aide to Vice President Kamala Harris, was a deputy campaign manager in 2020 and has served as the director of intergovernmental affairs at the White House. Chavez Rodriguez is also the first Latina to run a presidential campaign.
Quentin Fulks, who most recently served as the campaign manager for the reelection bid of Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), will serve as principal deputy campaign manager. Fulks, a Black native of rural Georgia, has also worked for Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and the super PAC Priorities USA.
“To win this fight, we need strong leadership that can build and expand our broad, diverse coalition from 2020,” said Biden. “With this team leading the charge, we’ll be able to do just that. Julie and Quentin are trusted, effective leaders that know the stakes of this election and will bring their knowledge and energy to managing a campaign that reaches all Americans.”
The duo will have to work with Biden’s much older and whiter inner circle, some of whom are expected to stay at the White House, including chief of staff Jeff Zients, communications guru Anita Dunn and longtime aides Bruce Reed and Steve Richetti. Former chief of staff Ron Klain is also expected to provide guidance.
The campaign also announced a set of co-chairs, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Sen. Chris Coons of Biden’s home state of Delaware; Reps. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Veronica Escobar of Texas; Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois; and Hollywood producer and Democratic megadonor Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Biden and Harris are both expected to attend campaign-style events on Tuesday, although neither will leave D.C. to do so. The president is appearing before the North America’s Building Trades Unions Conference, where he will sell his pro-union record and work revitalizing American manufacturing to a crowd full of the working-class voters Biden needs to keep in the Democratic column to win reelection.
On Tuesday night, Harris will appear at a rally hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice America, a symbol of how central protecting abortion rights is likely to be to the campaign. Since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade’s guarantee of abortion rights in 2022, Democrats have enjoyed a substantial advantage on the issue.
“Extremists have intensified attacks on basic, foundational freedoms and rights,” Harris said in a statement. “They want to take away a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. They attack the sacred right to vote and attempt to silence the voice of the people. And they try to block common sense reforms to save lives and keep Americans safe from gun violence. The Republicans running for president want to take our country backwards. We will not let that happen.”
Biden and Harris’ best ally as they run for reelection is set to be a Trump-led Republican Party seemingly committed to its own unpopularity. Major chunks of the GOP agenda, from Trump’s election denial to social conservative pushes to severely restrict abortion rights to fiscal conservative desires to cut Social Security and Medicare, are anathema to the public.
In a statement, Trump attacked Biden mostly over economic issues and immigration, arguing “[t]here has never been a greater contrast between two successive administrations in all of American history.”
“You could take the five worst presidents in American history, and put them together, and they would not have done the damage Joe Biden has done to our Nation in just a few short years,” the former president insisted. “Not even close.”
Jen Bendery contributed reporting.