As Joe Biden ponders whether to run for a second term, he must deal with a host of issues. His party’s establishment is deeply worried that another Biden campaign will hand the White House to the right wing, a result that could have devastating consequences for working people.
But as he heads toward a decision, Democrats are learning to cast aside reservations about their candidate and embrace him. They’re doing so by focusing on his legislative achievements and casting the GOP intra-party feuding as an distraction that reflects poorly on him.
1. The Party’s Stakes Are High
With the midterms behind them and the presidential race still months away, many Democrats are still grappling with their own political reservations. After a year in which the party seemed on the verge of falling apart, senior White House aides were buoyed by a notable shift at the end of last year.
While the midterms didn’t yield a red wave, many Democratic leaders saw them as a vindication of Biden’s legislative achievements and a call for the White House to continue pushing forward. And in a wide array of competitive Senate races, Democratic candidates ran up the score on economic issues, staking the party’s future on a populist turn.
Among them was Pennsylvania Progressive Caucus member Matt Cartwright, who beat a Republican in a district Biden lost by three points. He is known for embracing a populist economic approach that includes promoting jobs from China, capping drug prices, and protecting Social Security.
2. The Left Is Reluctant
After last fall’s midterms, the party was largely focused on its gains and averting a red wave. And so any energy to challenge Biden was tempered, especially after the former vice president averted the kind of losses many had expected.
A new poll shows that Biden’s approval ratings have slipped. But he still commands high marks on some policy achievements, including a coronavirus outbreak, a bipartisan infrastructure law and tax and spending measures to address climate change.
Despite those successes, some voters worry about Biden’s age and job performance. He’s a slow-moving politician who may not be able to effectively manage a crisis. He’s also been criticized for not getting enough done, particularly in working with congressional Republicans.
3. The Right Is Embracing Biden
Over the decades, Americans have chosen presidents who felt their pain and channeled their anger, who shattered historical barriers or seemed like enjoyable beer-drinking companions.
But President Joe Biden’s potential second term bid, which he would conclude at age 86, is prompting exceptionally complicated feelings among one highly engaged constituency: his generational peers.
Progressives fear that if Biden pivots to the political center on issues like crime and immigration, it could fracture the young, diverse coalition of voters who delivered him victory in 2020 and helped him maintain control of the Senate in 2022.
Specifically, they worry that a White House that embraces a “no culture war” approach will miss out on opportunities to build progressive support. This includes a solid pro-choice majority that is growing worried about Republican anti-abortion extremism in the courts, the state legislatures and Congress should the party win big in 2024.
4. Biden’s Path to the White House Is Smooth
Biden has a high approval rating in most countries and enjoys strong support for his policies. In fact, a median of 74% have confidence in Biden to do the right thing on world affairs.
The president’s domestic agenda is also broadly supported, especially in Europe and Latin America. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that seven-in-ten people in these countries trust that he will protect their interests when it comes to international policy.
A new Biden administration will need to build on the progress of the last four years and restore America’s reputational capital, rebuild alliances, and reinstate the United States as a constructive guarantor of the multilateral system. Simultaneously, the new president should reaffirm America’s commitment to democracy and racial justice.
A bipartisan approach to U.S.-China relations, however, will be difficult for a new Biden administration to pursue as long as it remains unclear whether China will continue to challenge the United States’ strategic interests in the region. Nevertheless, a favorable hemispheric agenda on political corruption, human rights, and the environment will be essential to help ensure prosperity in the Asia-Pacific.
5. Biden’s Path to a Second Term
Since World War II, only six presidents have won second terms. Those include George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Donald Trump.
Biden has the potential to be one of those. Advisers to the president say he is building up a case for a bid that combines an impressive legislative track record a surprisingly good economy that has transitioned from the high-inflation, low-growth era of his first year in office to a period of steady durability.
But even as he has built up this narrative, a new poll shows that just 22% of Americans overall would like to see Biden run for a second term. Despite that, a majority of Democrats would support him if he ran again.